Archive for category Mormon

Shine on you Crazy Mormon

Those of us who grew up Mormon had a childhood set apart from the rest of the world. We were in the world, but we were not of it.

Oh, how much we wanted to be of the world. How dearly we wished to be cool. But even when we would hang with the cool crowd, there was an air of “different,” or “nerd” about us because of our standards which we wore on our sleeve. When we were young, the standards were bright and shiny. For most of us, when we were older (high school and such), we rolled up our sleeves to hide that shine a bit.

For us Mormons, we always knew the uber-Mormons. We knew them because they would shine like a beacon on a hill. They would uphold every standard, chide us for missing standards, and then look hurt when we just wanted to fit in for a few hours each day. I’m related to some of these beacons. You know them because even in a crowd of weirdos (also known as Mormons), they don’t fit in at ALL. But 90% of the rest of us learned to fit in over time.

But try we would to fit in. I remember in 1st grade, when I was going to school at Lakeside Country Day (now gone from this earth because the owner died and his greedy children desperately wanted to cash in on that land). The playground had various structures made from old tires. I remember playing with a foul-mouthed friend, whom I never chided for his language. I stuck my head out of the tire and said, “Shit!” quite by accident. That was my first bad word. Even though I did that, I still remember telling on Taylor Valentine for calling me a dillweed. You see? I was in the world, and trying to look like I was of it, but I just was not.

No matter how much you try to fit in, people find out you’re a Mormon. I’m sure the first thing that happens is they go asking their parents over dinner (see how old-fashioned I am? There is no more “over dinner” – it’s drooling over your frozen meal on the couch in front of Glee reruns) what a Mormon is. Within a day, the kids are back at school asking how many moms I have, or how many wives my Dad has. Then in later years they’ll ask about magic underwear. They’ll ask if we go to Church in that huge white thing in La Jolla. They’ll ask if I come from Utah (in the same tone they’d ask if I came from Neptune). They ask if we have a golden Bible. My favorite are the ones who ask if we’re polytheists, and how many wives that means we can have. It’s best to just start with a basic English lesson at that point. With each one of these questions, our coolness factor drops through the floor and we’re reminded that we are a world apart from the world around us.

Then, sooner or later we find out we can’t date till we’re 16. So then we look at girls our age and realize we can’t really talk to them, because dating could ensue. For me, I was two years ahead in school and thus I wouldn’t hit 16 till 4 months before graduating high school. I stayed away from dances, and so met no girls. If I couldn’t go to school dances, I wasn’t about to go to Church dances, so I didn’t get that exposure either. Then I was in my senior year realizing I was coming up on my last Homecoming, and knew my parents’ answer before I asked, “That’s a dance, you’re not 16. Sorry.” I went to my prom, but I had been going to an all-boys school so everyone thought my distance from girls meant I was gay. So I asked the prettiest girl I knew if she’d go with me. Then I had Disneyland grad night. I asked the prettiest girl I knew of (well I went to her brother and mother first) to sorta get her on loan for the night. Who knows what happened to her. At least prom night girl is still a friend, and one of the cooler people I know. What a cluster.

Anyway, back to our weirdness. I’m trying to show the lifetime of avoiding ridiculously over-repeated questions. Here’s one: in grade school, Teresa Wilson thought it was funny every single one of the 367 times she told the story about passing a ward building in her car with a friend, and the friend asked, “Is that the Moron Church?” Oh man I hated that.

But now, us Mormons (and excommunicated Mormons waiting on the sidelines) are gaining cache. There’s an increasing coolness factor to us. But we haven’t changed! What’s going on here?

First of all, I’d say President Hinckley’s massive temple construction surge helped. Now in just about every important city in the Western world, there is a temple. The most visible symbol of our faith can now be seen in what is really the only modern mega religious architectural marvel. That helps to familiarize us with the Gentiles.

Then, we have Big Love. I have my complaints, such as the fact that the writers get to double-dip. They portray polygamy, with many of the airs of the LDS Church, and get to show our most sacred ordinances and rituals, and still poke fun at the uber-nerdy Mormon family constantly trying to convert the single mom who’s really a hidden third wife. That might be triple-dipping, or quadruple-dipping. They’re obviously no friend to us, but what it does is finally draw a distinction in pop culture between what it means to be a Mormon and what it means to be a polygamist. Nice first step.

Then comes the Jeffs weirdos. Mr. Jeffs goes to jail for running his weird 1850s-style (and Big Love bad guys-style) polygamist compound. People now see a connection between Big Love pop culture and real life weirdos. They start to get it a bit.

Then comes Mitt Romney. He fixes corrupt Olympics, and he has good hair, he is a governor of a really blue state (and gets criticized by fellow Mormons who believe that the only good Republicans vote against any tax over 0%, jails people who get abortions and who sell the Pill, and never compromises on anything. They believe it’s much better that he stand on principle, win 3% of the Massachusetts vote and have a noble loss, thereby leaving the State to another 4 years of liberal leadership. The shortsightedness is baffling and more naive than I can stand. I’ll put it another way. If far Left is -10, and far-right is +10, my idiotic purist compatriots would rather have a -8 than a +3 because it’s so noble to lose.).

And now Mitt runs for President! He looks like a normal guy – he is a little wooden, of course, but I think that comes from the way we Mormons stand apart. He seems like any other guy with a calling at Church to us, but to the outside word they want to see some stains on his character, something that reminds them that he’s human. They won’t get that, but I sincerely hope they get him for President.

Next comes The Book of Mormon on Broadway. We have now sunk down to the level of South Park. We can officially say Mormons have become an everyday occurrence in American pop culture. Very nice.

But just when you think we’ve made enough inroads from the periphery, there are billboards everywhere! But it now looks a little contrived. It’s like when every TV show had a black guy who was the funny, ethical guy. Or when TV Shows put in a gay guy to be the funny, ethical guy who had the only loving, caring, honest, faithful relationship in the show while they were surrounded by lying,c heating, boyfriend-trading, hateful heteros. Are we being pushed into liking Mormons now? I suppose it helps to show that we don’t have horns. But still, I kind of get my back up against a wall waiting for a criticism about that. I feel like it’s going to force me to defend the Church’s decision to spend dollars on these ads. But that’s just me.

All of these things happen, and it helps. But we still live in a separate world from everyone around us. We go to school and know that we are in a bubble apart from all the other students. I go to work and I know that I need to stay in my bubble, because when I get stuck going to events with my coworkers they’ll all be falling over drunk, cursing up a storm and looking at me weird for not being drunk with them. And I can have a bad mouth every now and then, but it’s something I work on. I think that helps show them I have stains on my character. And I’m rather free with the knowledge that I’ve been excommunicated. More stains. But they know I have the bright-blue letter M on my chest, even with those stains. They can see Mormon written all over me. When there’s a Mormon exec to call they tell me to get my Mormon love fest on with the exec to make him our ally. Which I do. You see, I know the lingo. I know the secret handshake (so to speak). I can joke about how I’m a California Mormon, so we think Utah is kind of on the other side of hell. They always get a kick out of that. Call this a bubble within a bubble. But still, the bubble extends between us.. There’s a silent exchange of nods, as if we know and are comfortable with this person being in our bubble but we don’t want to be seen as weirdos so we won’t exchange too many pleasantries or relieved sighs about it.

We’re still in our bubble. Our bubble can’t be pricked by those around us, even if we want it to. We are Mormon. We don’t have horns. We aren’t polygamists. We don’t all live in Utah. We don’t all cram into the Temple every Sunday for worship services. We don’t have any problem with soda. We don’t drink coffee. We aren’t weird.

Well, we’re a little weird. We just don’t really want to be. Now go look at that billboard before you ask any more [stupid, tiring] questions.

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My First Divorce

My first divorce was my parents’ divorce. My second divorce was breaking things off with my mother. My third divorce was the one I just wrapped up in 2010.

My parents divorced in 1992. I was 15. This was back when I was always the youngest person in the room (that was annoying, then fun, and now it’s gone!).

My parents were divorcing. Here’s how it went down.

Background
My parents fought a lot. It usually ended with my dad driving away to sleep in his office. Once it ended with my Mom taking us kids to her friend’s house for Christmas. Sometimes it ended in laughing, which meant my mom was punching my dad in his gut and he was choosing to laugh about it.

My parents thought poorly of people who divorced. I still remember my father telling me about a lady in our ward (our church community) when I asked where her husband was. He wore a look as if he had tasted bad milk and said, “She’s divorced.” So even though the fighting had gotten bad, and I would tell my friends at school I expected my parents to divorce, it was hard to imagine it would ever happen.

I only once saw my mom run to the front door and kiss my dad when he got home. I remember being shocked — I practiced piano 4 hours a day, 10 feet from the front door, so if it had happened I would have seen it. I never saw any snuggling. I never heard any sounds from the bedroom. I knew they were married but never learned anything about what it meant to be married.

The most intimate thing I saw my parents do was actually a point of massive frustration for my father. It was right at the end of their marriage. They had been fighting in their room – I remember it was just before a holiday because she had been wrapping presents in her room. I think it was Easter, though, and not Christmas, but I could totally be wrong. I heard her make a different kind of frustrated noise than I had heard before, and I walked into their room. They were fully dressed, but dad had her sort of awkwardly pinned down. He had reached his last straw and had no idea how to handle her other than to hold her down to make her listen. He ended up taking his blanket and driving away that night, and I helped wrap presents, but my mother had to tell me to leave during that event, but not to worry and not to call the police. I remember thinking two things: “This is not good,” and “This is really more intimate than anything I’ve ever seen them do.”

The Snowball Starts
The year is 1989. I got my first computer. My dad gave me a computer he was done with from his office – an IBM AT with a 10MB hard drive, DOS, WordStar, and a 600 baud modem. Soon he upgraded me to a 40MB hard drive and I thought, “How will I ever use this?!”

The year is 1991. My parents have been much more on the rocks lately than ever before. When my dad upgraded my computer, once again giving me a hand-me-down, within a week I typed “delete *.*” (a command my dad had just taught me) from the C:\ directory. For you geeks out there, stop groaning. For you non-geeks, that means I accidentally deleted everything on the computer. Dad gave me a copy of Norton Utilities which helped me be able to see everything that had been deleted off of the computer. In my spare time, I started tooling around with it.

I soon found a document that outlined how my father would want to divide the estate if he divorced my mother. I printed it out and gave it to my mom. I knew this was a seminal moment.

The year is 1992. My parents go through the divorce process after a lengthy separation. My mom enlisted my help, which meant slowly turning me away from the father I loved very much. She had a multi-level marketing business called Sunrider. While she was out of the country seeing her married Australian boyfriend, I would run her business for her. In her defense, there was no boyfriend until she became separated from my father – that meant she saw separation like I do: You’re never going back. Her error was making my father believe otherwise. Also in her defense: She got the Australian to divorce his wife, and she’s been married to him now for 15 years.

While my mother was seeing the Australian, she would have me type her love letters to him (she was embarrassed of her handwriting, which was quite good). This was the first exposure I ever had to romance. I found other letters she didn’t want me typing for her, which she faxed to him. They were dirty! Also a first. Later, when I was mad at her, I opened up the suitcase where she stored those letters and showed my dad.

My Brothers
My brothers were born in 1980, 1984 and 1987. My mother started off the divorce process saying she wanted to give up my three brothers to my dad, that she never wanted to be a mother and he forced her to have them, but that she’d keep me because I was such a big help. She then said, “I’m getting $3200/month from your father anyway, and they cost a lot.” I told her that I had read through her divorce agreement, and I was fairly certain it was child support, not alimony – meaning the money goes away if she doesn’t have the kids. She made me show her the spot in the document – I was right (see the name of my blog). From that point on, she full-on manipulated my brothers every time they even hinted of wanting to see more of our father. She would even produce tears – she’s a wonderful actress.

My Faith
I was born in the LDS faith – “Born in the Covenant” as we call it. My parents had both been complete zealots when I grew up. I couldn’t date till I was 16, and that meant missing out one every important high school function because there would be girls there. No dances, no formals, nothing until Senior Prom (when I was actually 16). My mother would scream at me how evil I was when I was 8. She was a Mormon’s Mormon, good and bad. The only thing she hated about the Church was Utah – probably why I still have never been. I still remember her holding the hymnal during songs at Sacrament, and teaching me the melodies as we sang, including how to sing the other parts (Tenor, etc.) instead of just the melody.

A few things we didn’t have: We didn’t do family home evening often. I didn’t see the temple more than once before one was built in San Diego, and by then my parents were almost through with their divorce. I didn’t go to Church dances and generally we didn’t go to a lot of Church events (the reason would usually be that Dad was out of town and Mom didn’t want to do it alone, or that they had “bad food” there and my Mom didn’t want to cook something just for us kids to eat).

When my parents’ marriage began to disintegrate, my mother stopped going to Church. Her only appearances were the meetings with our Bishop, and she got really involved in trying to block my father from remarrying in the Temple. I am personally bracing for a similar fight when I go to the Temple again. My mother never went back. When missionaries went to her door, she and her husband screamed profanities at them until they left.

Note: She never withdrew her records from the Church, and won’t ask my brothers to do it either. I think that means that deep-down she knows the Church is true, but has too much pride to humble herself and submit herself to God. When I left the Church when I was 19, I tried to rekindle a relationship with her. She asked me to convince my brothers to withdraw their records – I told her that was a really big decision for me, and not one I’m going to influence for them.

My Mother’s Great Error
I mentioned it above – not letting Dad know it was over. I know how she thinks – I’m half hers, remember? The moment she was into getting a divorce, she was never going to be comfortable in that marriage again. She was emotionally out. However, the initial divorce agreement wasn’t favorable enough to her desires. I still remember being quite frustrated that even though she was signed off emotionally from the marriage, she would go out on dates with Dad and string him along some more. She explained why: if she could convince Dad he had a chance at reigniting the marriage (And again, she’s a great actress), he would give in on divorce terms. She always had in her arsenal the threat to divide the entire estate, including his business, but felt that you can attract more flies with honey. So she laid the honey on thick, got everything she wanted (including the entire equity in our home, instead of partial; Dad assumed all of the debt; and she got child support till we turned 19 instead of 18). Probably the most worthwhile nonprofessional acting in history.

My Father’s Error
He gave in. He loved my mother and wanted the marriage to be repaired. At every turn, he chose to run instead of fight. He may have done it for love, but the wrong things happened – my mother got her way. That means she got all of the financial gains, and she got my brothers and I “on her side.” I don’t think he realized, though, that he would lose so many of his sons in the process. I think just a little foresight, however, a good lawyer and the right counseling (perhaps from his lawyer) could have told him to put up his dukes where it counted.

Aftermath
This divorce left plenty of dead bodies, so to speak.

My mother continued to reach into my father’s life and screw with him for another decade after their divorce. She tormented him with hateful faxes, and my dad’s failure to fight back properly had his second wife convinced that he was still in love with my mom. Dad’s current wife put a stop to that by standing up for him. But even recently, at my brother’s wedding of all places, my father sacrificed a lot to get to China to be there. At the wedding, my mother used every last ounce of knowledge about how my father ticks, and ticked him off enough to leave right after the wedding. She has a tremendous sense of timing. I am firmly convinced that if his wife had been there, or I had been there, things would have turned out differently at that wedding.

I think my father believes he could have saved his sons’ souls by sacrificing his own soul and staying with my mother. He fails to understand a few things, though. The way some people think (including my mother and I), once you sign off of a marriage you never go back. Why make such a monumental decision if you aren’t going to stick with it to the end? What kind of spine would you have, or moral confidence? His real responsibility, the main effort, needed to be from the day she asked for divorce. Instead, he concentrated on making her happy. All that did was sink him into her smokescreen while she had her way with us.

I too bore many of the influences from my mother before I could properly sort out who I was and what was important for me in the long-run. By the time I graduated high school in 1993, I was firmly disgusted with my father (partly by him giving up, and heavily because she had convinced me of all the usual suspicions an ex casts on her hated ex-spouse – manipulation, being a control freak,etc.). On the night of my graduation, outside City Hall (where graduation happens) I told him he was no longer my father. I remember shaking while I was doing it, thinking I was making him pay for his errors and making my mother proud. He didn’t take it well, and I didn’t get to repair things fully until 1998.

My parents taught me nothing about marriage. They taught me some good lessons about divorce, however. My brothers are still reeling from the after-effects and it’s now been a long, long time. Years after the marriage, my third brother asked my dad when he was getting back together with Mom. It embarrassed Dad, but he failed to recognize even at that point how much he needed to be shepherding us through the process. That brother doesn’t even speak to him (or me) any more.

The Lesson
You can avoid many of the long-term damages that can stem from divorce if you take a strong hand with your life and the lives of your children from the moment a divorce seems inevitable. Your children need your strength. Your soon-to-be ex (or now your ex) needs to be dealt with in the legal process, and you need to treat them with respect, but you are no longer responsible for their salvation. They made their choice by asking for a divorce, or for their contribution in destroying the marriage to the point that you had to “man up” and make the divorce happen. Your children need you. Your own soul needs you. Shepherd them.

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Fashionable Apostasy

What’s the trendiest way to obscure your quickly dissolving faith? Allying yourself with:

Homosexuality

It’s so very powerful. You claim you used to love the Church (or any other Christian sect that hasn’t diluted itself with abandon) but you no longer can stand by a faith that hates homosexuals.

Defending the Church
Let’s step back a moment. First, in defense of the Church.

We don’t stand against homosexuality out of hate. When we have rules in the Church, they’re steadfast. The rules say things like “Never give up on a loved one,” and “Moderate your response to the news of your loved one’s homosexual struggles,” and “Do not encourage him or her to marry as a “cure” for homosexuality.” These aren’t the words of a community mobilizing with militaristic hatred.

An easy fact: you can’t hate people into changing. So if you disagree with someone’s lifestyle, then you won’t make any headway by ostracizing and/or mocking them. We are to embrace the homosexuals we know, and encourage them to strengthen their relationship with God and their faith in the Gospel. We happen to believe something like this: if they strengthen their faith, if they submit themselves to Christ, they probably won’t continue living an active homosexual life.

We stand against gay marriage because marriage is reserved for a man and a woman, with the ideal that the union produce children. Among other reasons, there are wonderfully utilitarian uses for encouraging procreation:

  • The major cultures who hate us around the world are very happy to breed themselves into little population explosions, and don’t think they’ll refrain from using the excess people to kill us one day.
  • Our quickly bloating welfare state (and the already bloated welfare states elsewhere in the West) needs a new generation to work for 40 years to pay for 30+ years of free money to all the old folks.
  • It’s a lot easier to manufacture new Mormons (or other religion) than to convert some (and some religions you can’t convert to, like Orthodox Judaism)


The Apostates
I will give a concrete example from someone I have known – a woman I’m vaguely related to. The first time I met her and her husband, they were leaders in their Ward (their Church community); in fact, he was the 1st Counselor in his Ward’s bishopric. They had everything Church-wise going for them, and they were graduating from college. They have 3 kids. They have owned a home or two. The world should be their oyster.

Then he had trouble finding the right job. Then he decided maybe he wanted to go to grad school. She supported them financially. Then she got a new job, surrounded by successful homosexuals. She hung out with them a lot.

At this point, the husband started to drink (a big no-no for us) heavy liquor to diffuse the stress from his grad school. The woman was shocked and appalled. Soon, this woman and her husband started to one-up each other in destroying their relationship.

She went drinking with her homosexual coworkers frequently. She would pass out at their homes and sleep in their beds.

Quick aside: The dirty stories in dirty magazines are full of men who are otherwise straight who stray gay for a night. Can’t a gay man stray straight? Should a lonely housewife really be sleeping in a gay man’s bed?

Back to my story. The husband “fell in love” with a girl at school and told his wife, plus an aside that he didn’t plan to do anything about it. She wondered whether she should get into swinging to make him happy. Yes, that’s the order of it.

She then reconnected with a high school boyfriend and would leave the State to watch his sporting events. Then this woman, the high school boyfriend and his own wife, and this woman’s husband started going to strip clubs in Vegas. (This woman AND her husband each had to drink themselves into oblivion the first time they went to the strip club in order to feel comfortable being there/drown out the Holy Ghost.)

Lesson: If you have to take any drastic measures to drown out the Holy Ghost, just stop.

The woman soon announced she wanted no more children, but if her husband wanted one, then he could feel free to sleep with the high school boyfriend’s wife and make one. In my mind, she was trying to find justification to sleep with that old boyfriend.

So after all this spiritual and mental deterioration, this woman’s only regular friendships were the old high school boyfriend and the circle of homosexuals from work. And after all this deterioration, she decided she cannot support a Church that hates people who are so nice as homosexuals are.

First of all, some of her own gay friends say they don’t want gay marriage. So are these gays discriminating against their own kind?

Second of all, she leaves this whole story of her deterioration out of her reasoning for falling away from the Church.

I met another woman who has fallen away from the Church based on our stance on homosexual marriage as well. She hadn’t attended church regularly in years.

Analysis
There are a couple levels to these people’s apostasy

  • The hypocrite within: They know they’re not living their lives in accordance with our standards/rules. They don’t want to get punished and go through the repentance process. Look how easy it is to support the wrong side in this social controversy.
  • The WASP Ridiculousness/Stuff White People Like: It’s so cool to have gay friends. You’re in that circle, and the best way to keep ahead of the curve is to be a zealot for their societal issues.
  • The Morally Obtuse: You’ve depleted your “spiritual bank account” and now you need a way to obfuscate the call of the Holy Spirit to come back. Best to drown it out with a contrived emotion like zealotry. In a way, the social issue fills the void that your religion once did. Something has to fill that bank account, so why not counterfeit spiritual dollars?

I’d say that people who sacrifice the religion they once loved for a social issue like homosexual marriage have all three of these levels somewhat equally.

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