Friday, January 30, 2015


We had the missionaries over for dinner tonight. They've been assigned to home teach us, so I offered them food. We had a nice visit, and I thought we might make it through the night without a lesson, but no luck. The message was nicely prepared and there was only one time where I felt uncomfortable about what was being said. One missionary was talking about all the "mistakes" he's made and how many more "mistakes" he's going to make. He said he wanted to be perfect and was trying to be perfect and mentioned the frequent guilt he feels at not being able to be all he should be and that he was grateful for the atonement. I really wanted to protect my three-year-old daughter from the message that she should feel guilty for all the times she wasn't and couldn't be perfect and also that  something external was necessary for her to feel ok about herself. As the lesson was coining to a close she kicked back with her arms behind her head and said, "Listen to me, guys. I don 't make mistakes. .... Actually, when I make mistakes I just take a few minutes and calm down and take some deep breaths like this. (Inhale, exhale). Mistakes are not a big problem. I just make mistakes and then I calm down and breath. That's all. We all make mistakes. It's not a big problem." I was beaming. I seriously have the most amazing child! The missionaries were pretty impressed by her message. To that, I say, Amen.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Wear Pants to Church

I mentioned in an earlier post that the beginning of spousal tension around church issues began with my participation in wear pants to church day. I wore my nicest pair of black dress pants. I bought them from Black House, White Market and I use them for formal performances on stage. They are dressier in fact than most skirts in my closet.  I initially wasn't concerned about a reaction from my ward  in part because my home ward is a wonderful, open, accepting place for all kinds of people. I've seen many a pair of jeans in the pews. I was simply wearing them to stand in solidarity with my sisters who had suffered as I had suffered. However, after the unexpected negative reaction of my husband I was worried about what would happen at church. Thankfully, it went just as I expected. Not only did no one say anything about it, I also think no one even noticed. I listened to the reports from other sisters who had a very different story to tell about their experiences.  My heart ached for them, knowing my situation in my ward, away from family and childhood friends, was unique.

Last week it was very cold and snowy here. I was getting dressed for church and did not want to wear a skirt because of the weather. I decided to dress in warm leggings, dress boots, and a dressy long top. I saw what I thought was an uncomfortable glance from my husband. At the last minute, I decided to leave the leggings on and put a skirt over the top too. I felt half glad for making my husband (and maybe me too) more comfortable, and half ashamed that I was still afraid to just wear pants. When we got to Sunday School the woman teaching the class was wearing pants. I admired her.

The Spirit

It's been a long time, but yesterday, at church, I felt for a moment what I used to think was "The Spirit." I was completely surprised, and I cried, as I always do when feeling "The Spirit." The scenario was a R. S. lesson on fasting. The conversation had turned to the good things the church welfare system does. (I didn't bring up that fast offerings stay in local wards and I believe aren't related to what happens at Welfare Square.) Anyway, the church welfare system, both on the local and international level is something I can definitely get behind and makes me very proud of my roots. The sisters were talking about experiences some of them had at Welfare Square in Salt Lake City. I almost chose not to comment because I was I am attending a German ward and would need someone to translate for me. However since the topic also turned to politics I decided to share the wonderful headlines coming from America papers about SLC in past few weeks. I said that the culture of fasting which leads to mindfulness of the less fortunate seemed to seep into UT politics and that SLC as of this year has no homeless people because the city gave them homes!  To say out loud that "my people" gave homes to the homeless made me cry. Ironically, the messages I hear so often from inside the church are anti "government handouts"and berate the idea of giving someone something just because he/she needs it (teach a man to fish, etc.). Somehow, probably because it made economic sense as well, the Christian mandate to feed the hungry and cloth the naked made it through the tough politic skin in UT. 

I recognized this experience where my emotions become very tender and my heart races as what I used to identify as "The Spirit." I do not think the spirit testified to me of the SLC political policy. That's not even supposed to be His role after all. Instead I think these feelings were a natural result of experiencing love, service, generosity, charity. That's what I feel. That's what I'm feeling right now as I type about this. This is a special moment for me because I think I might be able to foster those feelings again in a healthy way for what they are. I can learn to understand and trust them again. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

My Story on Mormon Stories

My Story on Mormon Stories

Dear John,
First of all my heart is so much with you and your family this week.

I am experiencing marital distress because of a Mormon/LDS faith crisis. Anyone can follow my story at I just began to share this week. My husband and I are very much in love and have a daughter. He is TBM, but with a very full library of Mormon literature. (I can only assume he is familiar with most of the issues.) Our hiccups with each other regarding the church started when I participated in the first “wear pants to church day.” He was so upset by this that he could hardly speak to me for a few days. I was completely surprised by his reaction, and when I tried to talk about why I felt strongly about participating he shut down. We are a few years into this now and our M.O. is that we just don’t talk about anything church related. I attend regularly not to rock the boat and he pretends like my faith crises doesn’t exist not to rock the boat. I don’t know where this leads us down the road, but I am afraid for our future. The intimacy we once had can’t exist because the conversation is shut down on the deepest parts of us. He is intensely suffering because of the repercussions of being a TBM with a spouse who doesn’t believe, and I am intensely suffering because I feel like I must go on pretending to be something I’m not. Mormon Stories has been hugely helpful for me as an outlet for mentally processing the changes I’m experiencing since my relationship doesn’t provide a safe space for discussion.

More On Garments

Let's start with obvious. Female garments are made to fit the .oooo1 %? I am short, so when I initially went through the temple I bought the "petite" in the size that was listed to fit my measurements. I could literally tuck the waistband of the bottoms into my bra. I ordered smaller sizes right away so that they might actually function as underwear, but the waistbands were then so tight that I would have stomach cramps after about an hour of wear. Can't they outsource the construction of these to Soma and Victoria's Secret? Who's with me?!

Also, it always bothered me when I could see women's garments at church and swore that I would take the time to find the right fit and wear appropriate clothing so that would not be an issue. It was impossible, and the worst offender was always the shoulder seam. I tried every shape and size and finally settled on the cotton tops so that it would at least look like a regular t-shirt when it showed. I  bought bottoms to fit my legs and would cut out the waistband to avoid cramping. Even then when I had found the best possible solution my husband, just because he was looking out for me, would always notify me when they showed. It became so infuriating that at one point I went to Goodwill and bought all long sleeve/ turtleneck, to the floor dresses I could find - no separates because you can't lean over without them showing at the waist, no regular neck lines because they show around the neck, and the length needs no explaining. I bought only black because I also wanted to look slim (another issue.) For weeks that's all I wore. I felt so oppressed by my garments. There was the added pain that they were a constant reminder of the  temple with its painful gender discrimination. I wanted so badly to go back to the pre-temple me. I thought that might begin to repair my damaged relationship with God.

The weeks of wearing all black chin to ankle filled me with enough determination to say "NO." If I was going to have to wear them for the rest of my life God would understand if I did what I had to to make them work for me. I chose to never wear them when I slept. Then I decided at home was a safe space where I could be in control of my body and wear whatever I want. I only put them on to go out somewhere or if I knew someone was coming over.  Then I started wearing just the top or just the bottoms as made sense for me to still be comfortable being seen in public. A thick cotton, ill-fitting t-shirt under a dress? There is no way to make that look good. The body-conciousness was exhausting.

After this time I went through a faith transition. This made me see them in a whole new light. It now made sense why I loathed them so much, and it wasn't a betrayal of the precious gifts of God. God was not behind them. This made logically and emotional sense to me. There was great peace in knowing that God did not care wether I had them on or not. I still wore them for a long time after this for my friends and family, but I didn't take the care that I had in the past to make sure I could answer the TR question that I was wearing them day and night. I am so happy to have my mind back and that it is no longer dwelling on what I'm wearing and how I feel in what I'm wearing. I'm just my body functioning for me the way I need it to.

Although I have my body back for me, I hate that I will never have it back from the Mormon community. The garment that is supposed to be so personal, so scared, never shared or seen is the most public "sneetch" symbol of all. One can still regularly attend church, serve in a calling, say public prayers, bear public testimony, follow the word of wisdom, pay tithing, but choose not to wear their garments and everyone will know they are really an outsider. I can't prevent this and it's very painful. The Mormon community, especially my family and friends will always look for my "garment lines."
The second half of this podcast is a discussion on garments and I related to every word.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

An Experiment With Guilt

I mentioned earlier that growing up I felt a lot of guilt, even when I hadn't done anything to warrant it. My brain would find on things to be guilty about -  telling a partial truth, thinking a swear word, writing a short journal entry, not fully kneeling for prayer, etc.. If I wasn't finding something to be guilty about and fix than I wasn't progressing, and progression was the purpose of life. This also made me hyper-aware of others' behavior - I saw him drink coffee, her shirt is too tight, I bet she drinks, I know that's a lie, he swears, etc..

All the rumors surrounding our courtship and union, and the denial of the sealing made me feel like I must have really done something wrong this time. Our wedding was more like a funeral because my family was in mourning about our non-temple wedding. I was plagued with guilt and was having a lot of trouble acclimating in the most simple ways to married life in my new community. I fixated on what people were thinking about me. It was difficult for me to go to the grocery store, walk the dog, apply for work, everything.

Finally a turning point came. I had a close friend from college who had also moved back to our college town because of marriage. She was in a similar situation except she was not Mormon, so she and her husband had started dating before his divorce, they didn't "wait" for marriage, etc. and their families were completely supportive. She was evidently happy, felt no guilt, and was fully integrated into the community. She had many friends, knew everyone in town, had a job in the community, etc.. The juxtaposition was stark. She had "sinned" in obvious ways to Mormons, but was perfectly fine, and I had been so careful not to "sin" and I was a guilt-ridden mess. I decided I was going to do a crazy experiment for a Mormon. I decided to stop reading scriptures and stop saying prayers where I would dwell on my shortcomings, and instead try to just be happy being me. It worked. Almost immediately. It has been a long time since I've felt guilt for anything other than hurting someone's feelings. I was shocked at how much better I felt. Clearly scripture reading and prayer help many, but it was also clear that it was not helping me. I am completely terrified to share this experience because I wish so much not to hurt anyone's feelings or beliefs. This is just my personal experience, and that's all I've got to go on, and maybe someone out there will relate and feel like they're not alone.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Getting Started

I created this blog about a year ago, and fear has kept me from doing anything with it. Today I take my first step for April Young Bennett whose voice has been silenced. See She described herself as "replaceable" in her resignation post. She is not. However, if those of us who have been silent until now speak up in her place, maybe her voice won't have been lost in vain. This is for you April.

My Story: I was born and raised a Mormon in Utah. I have pioneer heritage going back to the beginning and my mother can let you know the names of each of the relevant ancestors since, as my dad always puts it, "She spends more time with the dead than with the living." It is my great love and respect for my parents, and also the most precious relationship with my devout husband that has kept me from being open about my feelings and struggles in the church.

Even now, I just paused my typing and switched my screen because I heard my husband and was afraid he might come in the room and ready what I am typing. Why all the fear? He is, as April described her SP, a "good man."

I have eight brothers and sisters and was raised in a "typical" mormon home where my Mom spent her days cooking, cleaning, and balancing the schedules of nine children and my Dad got up early to drive into the city for long, grueling days at the office. The not so typical aspects of my upbringing was the presence of my grandmother who lived with us, homeschooled us, and gave us Suzuki violin and piano lessons. She was inactive and extremely faithful to God, and as I child I thought nothing of it. I was extremely religious and followed both the letter and the spirit of the law to a t. I felt a lot of guilt as I child because my standard for myself was God's standard. I went years without missing a day of journal writing, scripture study, and prayer. I remember falling asleep out of complete exhaustion one night without completing my prayer and feeling like I had betrayed myself and God. I remember another time where I didn't finish my dinner and my mom didn't let me have any dessert because as a result. When I went downstairs to my room my grandmother offered me a cookie, not knowing of my punishment, and I refused it because God would see my sin. I had read and marked my Quad from cover to cover multiple times. My high school friends even held an extra scripture study night once a week. I didn't hold hands, look at the covers of magazines, and I certainly didn't kiss anyone. I was nearly 24 when I had my first kiss and was still entirely unaware of sexuality at all. Yet, I would tremble with fear before and during a Bishop's interview. My life was as straight arrow as straight arrow gets.

The one place where I felt at odds with the church was in Young Women's. All the role models in my ward were wonderful women . . . who all married by 19, and had big families, and were full-time homemakers. I was supposed to want that. That was what God wanted. I pictured it over and over in my head for me as the righteous path for my life. When I got my patriarchal blessing it blessed me with "many children." The problem was I was really good at academics, a fine violinist, and I wanted a career. I knew it was not right for women to have one at the expense of their children, but I figured God and I could work it out and I would choose an "acceptable" career that would allow me to be home with my children. I didn't much want to have children, but I thought that might change when I got older. My mom pushed hard for me to go to BYU, but I got a full scholarship + from Oberlin Conservatory and College. It was a fabulous experience and one of the best decisions of my life. The church was my rock there and I made great friends. I did the double degree program there with a degree in Politics from the college and Violin Performance from the Conservatory. I would return to my home ward over the holidays and the pressure to marry would drive me crazy. One particularly memorable comment came when I was at a bridal/baby (?) shower for my friend. I was sitting next to one of my past Young Women's leaders. She turned, and did not say "How are your studies going?" No one said that. Instead, as always, she said "Are you dating?" It would still always shock me a little because in Oberlin, no one was dating. I said, "No, I'm a little young for that anyway." She said "You're just looking too hard. I told my Jenny, you just need to stop obsessing about it, and quit looking for him and he'll find you. She stopped, and the very next week? . . she found him." Her Jenny (name changed) was not yet 19 as I recall, and I was certainly not looking too hard or obsessing. In fact, I hadn't been thinking about it all. I did think about how the scary narrative of "the one" whom you would "know when you meet" would just appear when you stopped thinking about him.

As it happens, I did meet my future husband at Oberlin, although we didn't date at the time since he wasn't on my radar screen as a potential companion due to age difference and marital status (he was married at the time.) I graduated and went on to Rice University to do graduate work in Violin Performance. My now husband was divorced a year into my graduate studies. We had remained friends through this time and eventually decided to date. We dated long distance while I finished my degree. As my time at Rice was coming to a close I prayed and fasted a lot about upcoming life decisions. I felt very strongly that I wanted to go through the temple to be endowed. I believed taking this step into adulthood and closer to God would help me make better life decisions and bring clarity to what God wanted me to do.  I sat in on the temple prep class and made an appointment to see my bishop to get a recommend. When I met with my bishop he simply said I was too young to go to the temple. I was confused because most of my friends were endowed, mostly from marriages or missions, but also from simply desiring to be endowed or wanting to attend a family wedding. I had never heard of an age limit before. He assured me that the bishops had received a letter that asked them not to give recommends to women under 25. I could return on my 25th birthday and ask again. I was furious. I was three months shy of 25, was going to be moving before then, had never heard of any age restriction, believed fully that God wanted me to go, and was further distressed knowing that if I had thrown myself at one of the boys in the ward and we had come in saying "we want to get married next week" I wouldn't be "too young for a recommend." I was ticked.

Feeling like I had been shut off from what I thought would be the inspiration that I craved, I decided to move to Oberlin to date my boyfriend in person and determine if we would get married or call it off. Obviously, we decided to get married. Because my husband had been married in the temple before we had to request permission to be married in the temple. This request was denied with no accompanying explanation, only an invitation to ask again in a year. We both held active temple recommends and we were quite upset when we were told we couldn't be sealed. It was strange to know we could be sealed for other people, but could not be sealed ourselves. We did not want to put our lives on hold for another year, so we went ahead and planned a civil wedding. Of course, the ward couldn't comprehend why we weren't being sealed in the temple, so lots of lovely rumors were flying. Because we couldn't be sealed in the temple, I did not seek out a recommend for my endowment at this time.

A year after we were married we applied to be sealed. We went into the SP office to be interviewed. He interviewed us separately. He pulled out a very disturbing file of papers including copies of private letters I had sent to other people. I don't think we had met before and in this room with just the two of us he questioned me hard about my "adultery." He had taken rumors for truth and I felt he was trying to push me into admission. There was nothing to confess, so it was in vain.  I felt so icky and was very upset. My husband said that the SP did the same thing to him in private and that the SP twisted my husband's words when he tried to explain what happened in the divorce. This was awful.

Notwithstanding, our second request to be sealed was granted. At this point we'd been married over a year, and I hadn't been endowed, so I had the freedom of no garments. After I'll I'd been through with the initial bishop's denial of a recommend, the denial of the sealing, the rumors, and the horrific SP interview, I was less than excited to go through the temple, now that it was time. I thought it would be more meaningful for me if I made it a family event, so I went to MN where my grandmother and aunt live and my mother and sister flew in as well. We went through the temple together. I was glad to have them there. I thought the initiatory was very interesting and I love being together with everyone hushed and in white. I had also loved doing baptisms and being in the temple. My first traumatic experience in the temple came at the very beginning of the ceremony when you must commit to the covenants before you even know what they are. I found this very unsettling and I wanted very much to leave the room and say "no, not until I know what I'm promising." I think if I had gone by myself I might have done just that.  The temple endowment was not a good experience. I hated the male/femal separation because I felt like I had lost the physical support of my husband. I cringed as I made promises to obey my husband, and that he didn't make those same promises to me. I sorrowed at the portrayal of Eve and the absence of a Heavenly Mother. I felt belittled when I had to veil my face to pray. I was livid when I had to give my husband my new name, but that I wasn't going to be given his. I felt agitated that only men work at the veil.  The celestial room was pretty.  When we were sealed soon after I felt like property when I gave myself to him, but he didn't give himself to me. It would be a few years before I found fmh, the-exponent, etc. and discover that I was not alone.

The garments were also huge problem for me. When I went home with my husband the night I was endowed I looked at myself in the mirror with just my garments on and cried and cried. I had fought unhealthy body consciousness issues (I'm sure I'll talk more about this later), as most women do, but I was doing pretty well - thank you Oberlin! It had been a long time since I worried about what I was wearing other than, am I clean, presentable, and able to do my work. Now I thought about it constantly. Those garments are not made to fit anybody! They move incessantly, or are itchy, or are too tight, or too loose. I called to get custom made ones, but they told me my needs weren't urgent enough to warrant custom garments. I finally settled into a style and size where I would cut out the waistbands to keep from having to choose between stomach aches or tucking the top of the shorts into my bra, and I would wear the cotton tops so they would look like a regular undershirt when they shifted. I began to hate me, in my body, in my clothes, in public all the time. I never wore them in private. It was too awful. After wearing them everyday for five years, I have decided to stop. I feel so much better!

There is so much more to say, and I will, but hopefully this is at least a framework from which to start to live more openly and authentically. For April, I will not be silent.