Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: mormon resignation, mormons, patriarchy
As a reminder, I resigned from the Mormon church November 4, 2008. The last straw was their involvement in passing proposition 8 in California. I sent the letter to the records department via priority mail. (I’d heard that if you don’t use priority mail with tracking, they will often just return it, in other words, not accept it.) I waited patiently for a response. I asked to only be contacted via mail with confirmation that they had done what I asked.
It didn’t take that long. When I opened the letter yesterday (November 22) and found that they totally disregarded my request, I was bemused. Not angry, which is refreshing. Bemused — slightly amused; feeling wry or tolerant amusement. That word is perfect for this occasion.
I resigned. And, to make sure i wasn’t padding their numbers any further, I asked to have my name removed. Mistake? Perhaps alerting them that you have resigned is enough. Perhaps quoting the page of the church handbook that lists instructions on waiving the 30-day period is not necessary. Maybe mentioning the stake president’s role in the process wasn’t necessary. (I didn’t name him, because i didn’t even know who he was until I got their letter.)
They don’t make this easy. The man who wrote the letter to me, Gregory Dodge, says that this matter has to be handled by local leaders before it can be processed by church employees. Why? It’s reveals the patriarchal nature of the organization. “I’m sorry, little girl. You obviously must not be thinking clearly. We’re tattling to your leader daddy, who is going to come give you a spanking.” I wonder what he will do. In Utah County, where there are so many members, the ward boundaries usually encompass your neighborhood. I realized when I heard his name that I know who my bishop is. He seems cool. He spoke up at our Homeowner’s Association bi-annual meeting a couple of weeks ago, essentially lending a voice of sanity and defending the people who don’t consider our development a retirement community, and who don’t think parking on the street overnight is a vile affront to the other neighbors. I wonder how he will deal with this. I didn’t include my phone number on the letter. I assume he will pay me a visit.
He may want to initiate a church court against me. Since I’m no longer a member, it’s sort of weird and ridiculous, but at this point, i’m feeling like i might as well go along for the ride to see what it’s like.
The letter asks me to reconsider, in view of the “eternal consequences” of such an action. I wonder if when the bishop comes, he tells you what is going to happen to you. “You are going to outer darkness,” or “you will never get to have sex in the hereafter, because only those in the celestial kingdom get to do that,” or “you will never see your family again.” Or if they just leave it at that … threatening “eternal consequences.”
They have produced a simple brochure for people like me. “An Invitation” from the first presidency. Inside, there’s a picture of them. Three white men with varying degrees of hair loss, wearing white shirts, ties, and dark suits. “Come back. Stand with us. Feast at the table laid before you in the church…and strive to follow the Good Shepherd.” They are reaching out to me, inviting me to return and “partake of the happiness you once knew,” promising outstretched arms to welcome, assist and give comfort.
The church needs me!
They reach out in a spirit of love and brotherhood inspired by Jesus. This paragraph is, i believe, the crux of the argument. “Our interest and concern are always with the individual man or woman, boy or girl. Our great responsibility is to see that each is ‘remembered and nourished by the good word of God.’ If any have been offended, we are sorry. Our only desire is to cultivate a spirit of mercy and kindness, of understanding and healing. We seek to follow the example of our Lord, who ‘went about doing good.'”
I see no good in the campaign against same sex marriage. Yes, I have been offended. The only way I know how to heal from the anger is to separate myself from the church. I don’t want to go back. I can’t go back and still be who I am.
I can imagine how hard this must be for some people. To those who think we resigners are a bunch of whiners, I’m just gonna say this once: Leaving is a difficult, emotional process. It’s taken me about 20 years. I envy those who leave quickly without grief. But I can say it has gotten easier.
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After several weeks of total freedom, I’m about to share the house with my parents again. They’re returning from an extended trip to California, where I grew up, and where my dad lived all his life until they moved here in the 1990s. Since they left California, I think they’ve probably actually spent more time there, but now they’re about to spend The Whole Winter here. No more wild orgies, I guess.
yay, back to them opening the basement door and shouting stuff down to me. “Jode! Do you want to *^#&@…..” I can’t really hear them, so eventually I have to walk upstairs so that our sound waves can actually reach each other without distortion. We should get some walkie talkies. If I don’t show up for hours, they will actually walk down and make sure i’m still alive. seriously. “I hadn’t heard from you in a while….” Yeah, maybe because I’m a) working b) napping c) too depressed to get out of bed. But don’t worry, I’m not suicidal. Things aren’t that bad.
Last night I dreamt that someone very close to me died. Someone I haven’t spoken to in a while, since the story. Time to talk to him today and try to clear the air. Death is a symbol of the complete rift we’re going through. I truly hope it’s not literal.
And one more thing: I fully acknowledge that my post on karma sounded brainwashed. I’m not trading one restrictive belief system for another. Really. I’m just thinking… and trying on, i guess. One thing Dharma said, which his guru told him long ago, is to look at what your teacher does, and mimic that. That’s how you learn. If I’m depressed and feeling lost, and I meet someone who glows, whose radiance is so attractive and I feel like I want that for myself, I’ll give it a try. Chanting, pranayama, intense practices for purification. It’s sure as hell better than feeling stuck and depressed.
Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: Dharma Mittra, karma, the secret garden
I’ve been thinking about karma lately. How could I not, after spending the weekend in a workshop with Shri Dharma Mittra. Being in the presence of a yoga master and enlightened being for so much time was such a gift. Especially after the harrowing week I had dealing with the aftermath of the Salon article (http://www.salon.com/mwt/feature/2008/11/13/mormons_prop_8/index.html). My family was horrified. It hurts to find out that they didn’t really seem to care that I had resigned (they thought I must have done that long ago). It was going public with it that really upset them. But the Dharma Mittra workshop changed my energy, my outlook, everything. Thanks to Jennifer Ellen at Flow for bringing him here.
I believe in the law of karma. After working for Ann Wigmore for three years, I saw the direct results of my good actions, from amazing places in which I got the chance to live, to the people I met who taught me and changed my life, as well as other opportunities that unfolded.
When things were going sour with my boyfriend, again (for the last time, i think), and I needed a place to live, I was offered a chance to live in a wooden house on a beautiful property on the beach, in exchange for working in the owner’s art gallery four days a week. The owner and I became close. We shared a lot about our pasts, our beliefs, and our experiences. One day he told me he wanted to build a yoga deck on the property. Together, we were going to create a yoga center where we could hold yoga retreats. We choose a spot, right on the ocean, under sheltering trees. It was an immensely generous offering. I was honored.
The owner’s brother returned to the island just as we were planning to build the deck. We went to Home Depot and bought the wood. As we were unloading it from the truck, he said, “be careful. The wood is treated with arsenic.”
I didn’t know anything about pressure-treated lumber before then. I was horrified. Still, we were in the middle of unloading it and carrying it to the space. It was too late to look into using reclaimed wood from the bottom of the ocean or something like trex, a green wood substitute made with plastic. I noticed after a while that the wood burned my skin.
Being the reporter and investigator, I went to the internet and did some research. Also, my ex boyfriend sent me a link to a site with some information on arsenic-treated lumber. I forwarded it to the owner. This was the beginning of the end. He accused me of being ungrateful. I tried to explain that I was not judging him personally, I just needed to gather information. I was worried about my students practicing on poison.
The wood was wet, and needed months to dry before being coated. The only solution i could find was to cover it with cloth. I bought four canvas tarps, which we unfolded and laid on the deck before each class. at least there was a barrier between us and the poison. Yoga is supposed to be healing, not toxifying.
Not long after that, I learned that the wooden house i was living in was built with the same stuff. Only, because the house was built years before that, it was pretty likely that it was treated with arsenic instead of the copper azole (cca) that was being used at the time. I just found this link tonight–i guess copper azole has also been phased out: http://www.epa.gov/oppad001/reregistration/cca/ (dated april 2008, it states: “Pressure treated wood containing CCA is no longer being produced for use in most residential settings, including decks and playsets.” Yikes. nice to know. Anyway, I started noticing that i wasn’t feeling well. Then I noticed black mold on the eaves of the house, inside and out. I moved out. Back in with the ex. Not before getting a chance to write about it for yoga journal: (http://www.yogajournal.com/for_teachers/2158)
Somehow I managed to keep teaching at the beautiful place for a couple more months. I had organized workshops and a Shiva Rea prana vinyasa flow teacher training intensive, taught by Shiva’s senior assistant, Twee Merrigan. That training was the last week of being involved at the beautiful place. After that, I was banned from the property. And was no longer friends with the man who gave me the gift of that beautiful deck. There seemed to be no way to mend things. I tried. But i had become an ungrateful demon to him.
Back to karma… I wondered why this was happening. It was hard to give up on the space and move on, but the energy had become so toxic, just like the deck. I eventually found another space on the ocean, where we had four teachers sharing and lots of good energy.
“You can’t escape your karma,” Dharma told us this past weekend. We are born with what we need to work through our karma. Accidents, cancer, these are all predetermined based on our past actions. “You have to accept your karma,” he said. Maybe things turned sour because i had to pay for past actions. I don’t know.
Families stay together, Dharma said. As long as you love each other, you keep being born into the same family.
My family does love each other. We overcame my coming out. I’m sure we’ll overcome my leaving the church. but what is it that we need to learn from each other?
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Night before last, I realized that I should talk to my family before Salon ran my story about leaving the church. My parents are still in California (they try to be there as much as possible… at least my dad does, and my mom is a good, supportive wife…). So i called and my dad answered. This meant that mom was not home. I was relieved. When i decided to come out to them in 1993, I talked to my dad first. he’s the non-mormon, the democrat, the one member of my immediate family who makes me feel that perhaps I’m not a total freak. He was awesome, and said that he just wanted me to be happy. He passed the word to my mom, who didn’t call me for almost a week. And when she did, she was crying. It was horrible, gut wrenching. But in the end, I didn’t change… or did I? I stopped being a lesbian after Heather broke up with me in 2000. Being bi, I could choose relationships that could make my family happier. And I never chose to be with a woman again. Heather used to say I was homophobic. Maybe I was just a coward.
This time, when I came out to my about leaving the church, he said he supported me, but wished that I had talked to my brothers about it first. He hoped that I wouldn’t do anything to offend them or embarrass them. Again, he brought up the anger issue. Why are you so angry at the church? What has the church done to you?
That’s a digression I will get into that later.
Something else has come up that needs attention: my family. I was surprised at how hard on me my dad was. I eventually called my mom. She hung up on me, just after saying, “you might as well have slapped me in the face.”
I talked to my youngest brother, who said right off that he loves me no matter what. I *really* love and admire him. He knows what it’s like to be on the outskirts, and to not fit in with the rest. But for the last 15 years, he has immersed himself in the church and believes in it and really lives it. He doesn’t understand same sex marriage, however, despite the fact that, hello, I used to be gay, and also, our beloved cousin John is gay — has been all his life. My brother actually fundamentally believes that you cannot be happy in a gay relationship. The lord’s plan is for a man and a woman to join together and create a family. He and his wife have built their lives around the bond they share, which is partially built on the physical connection they have, and on their sons and their religion. But the foundation of it all is their relationship. I can see how much they love each other. Can he really believe that two men or two women can’t achieve the same? Their bodies don’t fit together in the requisite way to conceive and bear a being with their DNA. But guess what? They do have children — through insemination, through adoption… And they love their children just as much as someone who conceived and bore their own. Perhaps because I’m infertile (one of my failures) I came to terms with the idea of a nontraditional family long ago. I was going to use an anonymous sperm donor as the father of my children. Unfortunately, I was already in menopause, at 36, when I was ready for that. My fertility doctor told me that my uterus was fine, and that I had a 90-some percent change of having a successful pregnancy, as long as I had an egg donor and invitro fertilization. My ex, the one I went to Puerto Rico with, wanted to have a family. He wasn’t OK with going the donor route, at least not before trying everything we could to have *our* baby. My time was already way running out by then, and I wanted to just go the donor route. But I went along with him, and that’s how we ended up in Puerto Rico in the first place — to go the Ann Wigmore Insitute, cleanse and hopefully heal my ovaries.
Children in nontraditional families deserve the same as children with a mom and dad who are still married (and hopefully love each other). Preventing gay marriage hurts those children. Getting back to the bond between husband and wife, and acknowledging how that’s the source of his joy in the world, I asked if it was fair to prevent people who want the same from having that.
My other brother wrote me something so hurtful, questioning my motives and integrity. I’m working on a response to him, especially to the things he forwarded me.
His wife unfriended me on Facebook. So did one of her daughters and that daughter’s best friend.
My mom and dad still haven’t spoken to me.
On another topic, I just can’t stop feeling weird and different: I interviewed at a gorgeous new yoga studio in Alpine today. They have their schedule full at the moment, but we talked about the kind of classes i’d want to teach, and we decided that doing a meditation workshop or a workshop class in prana vinyasa would be a good way for people to get to know me, and we could go from there. I asked, “are you at all open to having classes on sunday?” because there are no Sunday classes on the schedule. “Would the community support that?” They told me it’s in their contract that they cannot be open on Sunday. They believed the community wouldn’t support it. One of the partners said she was personally opposed to it as well. I told her about the Sunday classes i’ve been going to in SLC. They’re big. For people who aren’t in the church, it can be like Sunday church. I wonder if my willingness to teach on sunday will make them not want to trust me. Seriously? do i sound paranoid? I’m feeling hopeful about it. I can’t wait to start teaching group classes again. Privates are fun, but the vibe in a group class can be so amazing.
When I got home, my dogs were so happy to see me. Gogo gets up on his back legs, puts his front paws on my shoulder (i’m kneeling down at this point) and he licks my entire face with total unabashed joy. Thank god for the dogs.
There was a long line at the post office in Pleasant Grove on Saturday. Having to wait made the event seem more dramatic. I didn’t have anything else to do (besides trying to not listen to the woman behind me barking into her cell phone). I looked at my letter. It’s dry. It feels emotionless. Emotionlessness is huge. The first two times I seriously considered resigning from the Mormon church, writing the letter was an angst-filled process. I didn’t send it, either time. I’m not sure why. At first, I know I thought, “but what if they’re right?” Abandoning what you’re grown up believing is frightening, especially when it has to do with your entire life’s purpose. Where you came from, why you are here, and where you are going (as they put it). I was so into it that I devoted 18 months to being a Mormon missionary, wearing one of those black name tags (Hermana Mardesich), knocking on doors (or clapping outside non-existent doors in the countryside of Uruguay), looking for people who were “ripe and ready to harvest.” 35 of my investigators joined the church. I took time off of college and spent my own money (and some from an anonymous donor). Not trying to brag. Just explaining how significant it was.
But even though I stopped believing, it was still in me.
Around 2000, I wanted to write a book on my experiences in the church. Word got back to my mother. She called me one night, in tears, and told me that I really didn’t grow up Mormon, so how could I write a book about it? “Your father never joined the church, so we didn’t have the priesthood in our home,” she said. “So you really didn’t grow up Mormon.” I asked her what all those hours of church meant then? It seemed that every day was consumed by meetings. Three hours of services on Sunday, extra time to prepare for my calling (I played the piano for the kids’ services, so my piano lessons, taught by an enthusiastic, ancient woman in our ward, who had survived polio, centered around mormon songs, though I did get to practice the occasional Scott Joplin ragtime). Monday nights were for Family Home Evening. Tuesday or Wednesday the “youth” had meetings of their own, where learning about chastity seemed to be the focus. Fridays there were usually some sort of social event. Saturdays we had outings, things like visits to the cannery — where we helped can peaches, which were distributed to the people on church welfare, or visits to to the temple — where we offered up our bodies as proxies for dead people the church wanted to baptize and save (like those holocaust survivors that absolutely are not being baptized these days). Oh, and every day before school –BEFORE SCHOOL! we’re talking early– we had to go to Institute (the Institute of Religion) for an hour-long discourse on mormon topics. It felt like I’d sacrificed all my free time for this organization. And I didn’t grow up Mormon?
After my monologue, she came back with the only thing she could — she simply asked me to not make fun of something that is so important to her and my brothers.
Honestly, that virtually stopped me. I still wrote bits and pieces, in between long bouts of self-medicating, but she got her way.
So why start writing about it now? And why now, finally, am I resigning from the church? I can’t sit back and do nothing after what they did in California. And Arizona. And Hawaii. And Florida. Next stop? your state.
The heart of this whole issue, to me, is that they believe gay marriage is wrong because being gay is wrong. It’s not. It’s natural. People who are gay don’t choose to be gay. They just are. What’s wrong with that? Why do we have to fear something we don’t understand? And more than fear, hate it. And campaign to strip people of their fundamental rights.
It’s time for people to get over their prejudice. The gay civil rights movement is the last great civil rights conflict of our time. What other disenfranchised group is left?
I finally got to the counter at the post office. I handed the postal worker guy my priority mail envelope. He looked at it. Then he looked at me, straight into my eyes. In the past, I would have felt some sort of shame or judgment, even if he wasn’t intending that. This time, I looked right back at him, not feeling shame, but liberation. I smiled at him. I thanked him.
As I was walking out of the post office, I felt light, free, and completely joyous. I wasn’t prepared for how it was going to feel. It felt like the best part of meditation, that spaciousness and openness, energy rising up through my third eye and out of the crown. That feeling of being connected to all.
That huge burden of shame and guilt was gone. I thought of myself as the creative seven-year-old girl I was before being introduced to the mormon church, finally free and able to move on beyond the roadblocks, and beyond the damage, the guilt, the fear, and the self-loathing. I am free.
I don’t know what they will do with my letter. But as of the date I wrote it, I resigned. It really doesn’t matter.
If anyone is thinking of doing the same and needs encouragement, please write to me. There’s also a website, http://www.signingforsomething.org, that is posting letters of people who have resigned. There are also sites, like http://www.exmormon.org, or http://www.mormonnomore.com, or mormonresignation.com, that have sample letters and instructions.
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In response to some email I’ve received — from family, and from people I don’t even know — I want to balance what I’ve said with some other things I’ve experienced with the Mormon church.
The most recent beautiful experience I had with the church happened when my nephew Cooper died in August. (https://aseriesofsmallfailures.wordpress.com/2008/11/03/an-example-of-love-and-compassion/)
My brother and sister-in-law are devout members. My brother serves in the bishopric, and my sister-in-law is in the stake young women’s presidency. They live their religion, and for them it seems to be all about service. They are constantly spending their time helping others. So it was natural, when their youngest son died in a tragic accident, that they became the recipients of service. It was amazing to witness the outpouring of love and support they got. Neighbors and friends brought in meals every day for weeks. They mowed their lawn. They cleaned their house. They cared for their children. One neighbor even threw an intricate pirate birthday party– the day after — for Logan (whose birthday fell on the day of his brother’s death) while my brother and Sharon were at the mortuary, picking out a coffin and planning the funeral.
When I was a teenager, we had a few friends who felt alienated from their families. They became part of our family. One friend, Randy, used to say his name was Randy Mardesich. Almost our entire extended family flew in for the viewing and the funeral. Again, friends and neighbors (church members) helped manage the crowds at the viewing, they brought us water while we sat in the viewing room as more than a thousand people streamed through (the entire community was mourning), they organized the food (lots of funeral potatoes), they watched the kids. We didn’t have to think about any infrastructural issues. Whenever I looked up, someone was there asking if I needed something. It was so well-coordinated.
On Sunday, their bishop offered to bring church services to the house. At first I wondered if that was necessary. Wouldn’t they want to go to church and get back to normal life? He brought some young men, deacons and priests, to bless and pass the sacrament. And this is where I was blown away. When I was mormon, they taught that the sacrament (taking the bread and water) was a ritual and covenant you made ONLY if you were worthy. It represents the body and blood of Christ, which he sacrificed for us. I would torture myself every sunday, wondering if I was worthy to take it. You could look around and see who was and wasn’t taking it. Sounds petty, but I’m sure I wasn’t the only one. You were only to take it if you were a member in good standing.
However, this bishop (super hot, by the way) gave a little speech before they blessed the sacrament. He explained what it was about, that it was in honor of the sacrifice Jesus made, giving his life for us, and that it was a commitment to follow him. Yet, he also invited everyone there to take it. He said it could be a gesture of support for Ted and Sharon, and their family.
The boys broke the bread, blessed it, and carried it to everyone — except me. As they walked the tray of bread around, I wondered if I should or should not take it. I decided I would, for Ted and Sharon. I didn’t get the chance. When they passed around the little plastic cups of water, this time they offered it to me. So I drank it. Everyone else did too. Sharon’s family, who are not Mormon; my cousin, who is Catholic; his parents, who are Catholic.
My father was so moved. He had never taken the sacrament before (probably because you’re usually told it’s only for members). It was a simple gesture, but so inclusive and loving.
Yet I felt it wasn’t representative of the church as a whole. Most bishops would not have done that. Or would they? Had the church changed that much since I left? Still, I couldn’t overlook the dogma. Polygamy (which they downplay now, though they say it will be instituted again, in heaven), discrimination against homosexuals, and discrimination against intellectuals (scholars have been excommunicated for their research and publications on church history). Not to mention the crazy history, and rewriting of history.
It would be beautiful if we could have that sort of neighborhood support, based on relationships and love that transcends a religious infrastructure.