In 2008 there was a ballot initiative in California to deem marriage between a man and a woman the only marriage recognized by the state. At the time, I was a married, heterosexual woman living in Colorado — how, you ask, would this impact or involve me? I didn’t think it did, until I came to church one Sunday.
During Stake conference in October 2008 there was a satellite broadcast which strongly encouraged our participation in supporting this bill. Though we were not told how to “vote” per say, we were told to put our time and energies together to back the proposition. Now, it is not a matter of where I, or anyone, stands politically. Something felt wrong with my church using it’s vast membership to enforce a political stance. This started me down a small rabbit hole. Were there other times the church leadership encouraged a political vote/stance of its membership while claiming they don’t tell their membership “how” to vote? Why yes, yes there were. Many, many times in fact throughout the existence of the church. And once I started looking at things the leadership had said, in writing, on their own sites and publications, I started finding other issues that bothered me. And into a bit of church history I went.
Now, I could spend time here unraveling item after item about the tenants of the Mormon church through what I have learned about its history over the years — even present day practices — but that’s not entirely the point of the story – of my story at least. Suffice to say tugging at the thread was the beginning of far more questions than answers — and I sat with these questions alone.
My husband was a new convert, excited about his new found faith. My friendships were very much linked to my membership in the church. My children had been raised to believe what they had been taught. I had defended the church to my non-member friends and family voraciously for years. There was a lot riding on the realizations I was coming to and I was not ready to admit what I was thinking to anyone just yet. This was a hard place to be.
I’d attend church and I had become particularly aware of what was being said over the pulpit. Even what was said by the members during their “talks” — it is a lay ministry, after all. I became increasingly uncomfortable during the first meeting of the month which is referred to as “Testimony Sunday”, where all members, including young children, are invited to the pulpit to “bare their testimonies” of the truth of the Gospel. Young children, some who are barely above speaking age are often brought up to the microphone, assisted by their parents to say these words, “I know the church is True, I know Joseph Smith was a True prophet…” I’m sorry, at three years old, you know nothing about truth other than what you’re being coached to “know”. There were Sundays I wanted to pick up my purse and run screaming out of the chapel. But I didn’t. I sat there in my discomfort and didn’t say a word…for YEARS.
From 2008 to 2014 I sat in this unrest. By 2014 my son had all but fallen away from the church. He was now 17 years old and was verbal about things I was only thinking in my mind. My daughter was younger and still involved, lightly, because we as a family were involved lightly. Though my husband was now a member, I was always more of the leader when it came to spiritual things. And I had become less and less active in church. More and more Sundays I was too “tired”, too “busy”, too “something” to attend church that day. I just couldn’t bring myself to sit through three hours listening to the things being taught when my every inside was screaming, “It’s just not true.”
Then in 2015 the church came out with a new policy on gay families. This is the straw that broke the camel’s back for me…Children living with parents in same-sex households would no longer be eligible for baby blessings (where the child’s name is added to the Church rosters), baptism or other ordinances and could only become a member of the church when they turn 18, have moved out, denounced the union of their parents and received approval from church headquarters to become members. The CHILDREN. Not the parents — they were of course subject to excommunication if they still held their membership — but the CHILDREN.
This is in direct contradiction to Article 2 of the Mormon Articles of Faith, which reads:
That men will be punished for their own sins and not for Adam’s transgressions.
The church quickly came out saying this wasn’t a punishment — this was done out of love, because if you baptize an 8-year-old and they have to explain their parents are gay and living in sin, that could be damaging to them. I’m sorry, but NOT letting an 8-year-old child being raised Mormon get baptized is the quickest way to ostracize them from the masses. Baptism at eight is a right of passage in the church. “Why isn’t Johnny getting baptized? Oh, because he has two moms.” And really, if the church wants to assure Johnny is protected from sin, shouldn’t they be rallying around him to embrace him and allow him to experience the joys of following the church teachings? My head about exploded and that was the beginning of the end for me.
I remember reading this while sitting on my couch one Sunday afternoon. The anger that welled up inside of me was overwhelming and I couldn’t hold it in any longer. My husband caught the brunt of my intensity and I let it all spill out. Years of doubting, of feeling like a lemming. The hours I had spent pouring over my bible, just the bible, and finding no support in it for the telling of a coming prophet named Joseph Smith or the BOM. All of it came rushing out that day.
And though I’d felt like I had been on quite the journey up to that time, I had no idea how much longer the journey would be…