”WHEN i GROW UP I WANT TO BE A MORMON APOSTATE INTERSECTIONAL FEMINIST” and other things I never knew till now.
If I try, I can still remember at least one of the 13 articles of faith. The articles of faith are a small and concise over view of what The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints stand for in regards to their beliefs and teachings. They use the term ‘Men’ a lot.
When a little girl in Primary ( Sunday school for little kids) I remember my mother helping me learn them by heart. Each article was no longer than one sentence. The one I can remember and deconstruct from a intersectional feminist perspective, is the following: ‘We believe that men will be punished for their own sins and not for Adam’s transgressions.’ I can even still sing it to the tune that my mother taught.
Yes people should be held accountable for their actions. Shame the world we live in still only seems to think this way about women of colour, single mothers, men of colour and not white boys who rape and gun down innocent people. Shame that someone as bad and horrible as Donald Trump can become President. If the Mormons believe that men should be punished for their own sins, how come so many voted for Donald Trump? Surely he can be considered a ‘man’ with many of his own yet to be punished for ‘sins.’ It seems that the members of he church that live where the church was started (Salt Lake City, Utah, think that openly bragging about ‘Grabbing her by the pussy’ is less offensive than the alternative the politically experienced Hilary Clinton. She was not without faults of her own, but surely the level of sins was less horrifying?
When I was 18 years old I slowly began loosing my religion. It was my first year at university and I am living away from home and the church community. It is so exciting and scary to be learning so much and finding out that perhaps not every single thing my parents taught me to believe, was what I was going to continue to believe. Who was it that said that A woman who reads is a dangerous thing? I was becoming a dangerous thing. I was becoming autonomous.
On a weekend home from uni, visiting my family, I am asked to have a ‘little chat’ with the leader of this small town branch of the church, the branch that I grew up in. I am in the Bishop’s office after church. I sit in a chair and stare into my lap with tears of shame as he tells me with such kindness that I am on a slippery slope away from the lord and all he has in store for me. My parents never pressured me about church after I left for university. I remember one day when my parents had the missionaries over for dinner, my Father introduced me as follows, ”This is my eldest daughter, Jess. She goes to university and she’s a punk!” There was not a hint of disappointment in his voice. He was proud. Luckily I was into the music and not in it to horrify my parents.
I am sure they worried and stressed about me. Looking back I am so glad my parents did not stop loving me just because I started doing my own thing. They did not have the controlling parental style of other Mormon parents. As far as my parents are concerned they could only teach us what they thought was right and teach us to think for ourselves. Do I sometimes fantasize about drinking wine with my mum and dad? yes, I do. But, you cannot always get everything you want. Seeing my parents tipsy will never be realized and that not a bad thing.
A few years later that very man who lectured me would get himself into a rather large-scale scandal. He would go to visit a young single mother in his capacity as a church leader bringing back a member of his flock. What would end up happening is that that married man with two children of his own, would get the single mother pregnant, leave his wife of 20 years or more and start a whole new family. This was pretty much the final nail in the coffin that was my membership and interaction with the church. I felt so sick at the hypocrisy that man exhibited and the power he abused. . The single mother he impregnated is a cousin of mine ( I have many) and she and him are very happy. I am happy for my cousin.I hope he treats her with respect.
Angela Davis said ’The seduction of assimilation is one of the greatest barriers to moving forward. Once that mirage of church perfection was shook and muddied I started thinking that in order to be the educated and critical thinking person I wanted to be, I had to let go of a few things that were holding me back. I had to jump of the cliff and hope swimming came naturally. I found it impossible to keep a steady balance or cohesion between my blossoming intersectional feminism and being an active member of The Church Of Jesus Christ And Latter Day Saints. The wire cutters came out, but cutting was not the painless quick operation I hoped it would be.
This is what was rushing through my mind as I stared in horror at the electoral results for the state of Utah. On The New York Times website. The entire state of Utah is coloured in red. 375,000 votes went to Trump, 46.8%. The state of Utah chose Trump over Hilary. The state that does not separate church from the state, chose a sexist, intolerant of any religion that is not white Christianity. A racist and grotesquely wealthy man. Why? I suppose that any religion that is not run by a bevy of old middle class white Americans, must seem pretty freaky to their white fragility. If I sound bitter and snarky it is because that is exactly how I feel.
I sit and stare at that red state and want to throw my phone so hard it smashes. The shame and anger rushes up into my head and makes me feel dizzy. I am desolation. The rage in my heart is throbbing. The epiphany is painful. If you are Australian and you are an active member of The Church Of Jesus Christ Of Latter Day Saints, you have contributed to this election result. No amount of overt and frankly almost aggressive acts of kindness can make up for this.
The puritanical values of The church are things I can no longer silently agonize over, in an attempt not to offend a few people. I am ashamed to have been ever affiliated with a church and community that would think this is acceptable.
Where do they draw the line?
When Julia Gilliard was Prime Minister, I overheard a conversation about how disgraceful it was she was not married. I spoke up and said, ”That does not have anything to do with her ability to run the country.”
”It matters to ME.” One aunt said. The same aunt who told me she had crossed the street every time she saw a black man, while visiting America.
The values of the church do not give women bodily autonomy. They do not believe in abortion, so who do you think wants to help close down Planned Parenthood? They do not believe in marriage equality. Black people were not allowed to join the church until the 1970s. This always bothered me: If god and the church was true, then why was the church just as racist as everyone else at that time? Why didn’t the church include everyone from the start? Including same sex attractd people and queer people and trans people?
I have had conversations with male members of the church. I have had a relative actually use the ‘’ your vagina is a car’’ analogy on me. I have explained the fallacy of that belief. I have yelled in exasperation ”MY VAGINA IS NOT A CAR, UNCLE WILLIAM.” I have tried to calmly explain that it is not what a women wears that causes rape: It is rapists.
I have tried explaining about the 1 in four young women who will be sexually abused by the time they are 16? That is not a dress issue. This is rape culture.
I have tried to make them see that women should not have to be ‘protected’ men need to step up and be better. It has fallen on deaf ears and all I get is a headache of mammoth proportions.
This is not to say that I was raised without love. I was not. I love my parents. I have a great many problems with the church values. Some of the ideas in the church are lovely, being married to someone for eternity, can be considered two ways: lovely and batshit awful. My Dad always said that he could not think of anything worse than being stuck with all his relatives for time and eternity. That is right, people! My father said it way before Stephen Fry said it https://youtu.be/GzfCtGFgRSkand got all the glory. Which is why it can be argued that my father is as quick witted as Stephen Fry. No, my Dad is not on twitter.
I am simply trying to work through my confusion at a religion that tried to shape me, that has been known to blames rape victims and to encourage women to a purpose that seems, to me, revolves around procreation and pandering to the cisgender heteronormative white male ego.
Growing up I was taught about the second coming of Christ. It was going to be this big judgement day where all the obedient and believers in the gospel would be saved. While all the wicked and evil in the world would be destroyed. I remember being quite scared of this stuff. I remember being taught that as long as you believed and tried hard, you would be alright. You had to believe, though, in the lord and Jesus and the Holy Ghost. I was taught that you would know about the end of days and that we were living in them now. ‘There would be wars and rumours of wars.” I wonder if the Mormons here in Australia are thinking what I am thinking (more then likely they are not) that it is the Mormons who will help to bring about the destruction of the world, destruction that will not have the spiritual repercussion that they know to be so true. There will be no second coming of Christ, there will be dark days with no heaven to take the dead. Yes that is a dark thought and don’t worry, I have hope on happier days.
But what if the church is true, Jess? What will you do then? You little heathen. You were born into the gospel by parents sealed in the temple. There is more expected of you. You were raised in the one true church, do not forget that.
I had to delete an uncle from my facebook because his profile picture was of a painting of the Mormon prophet and lots of quotes from parts of The Book Of Mormon specifically from the section in Alma and Moroni. Quotes about how this ‘Prophet’ would sort all this out and help the faithful get to the top tier of the three levels of heaven. How this prophet would wipe out the non believers ad the devil himself. I did not only delete the one uncle, I deleted many faithful relatives, they would just get upset and hurt by the stuff I feel compelled to write. I feel it was an act with mutual benefit. I could do me and they could do them and we would only need to interact in real life at family things.
The quote / book of mormon quote that was shared was the following
Alma 48:10 And thus he was preparing to support their liberty, their lands, their wives, and their children, and their peace, and that they might live unto the Lord their God, and that they might maintain that which was called by their enemies the cause of Christians.
And this one.
Alma 48:17 Yea, verily, verily I say unto you, if all men had been, and were, and ever would be, like unto Moroni, behold, the very powers of hell would have been shaken forever; yea, the devil would never have power over the hearts of the children of men.
It is not great literature. It is also, it can be argued, nonsense. My uncle’s brother commented: ”If it was certain we’d all get there (heaven) then we wouldn’t need to be here… Why didn’t they go for the gold class option and say Jesus instead of Moroni? Seems a bit redundant to say if everyone was perfect then the devil would have no sway… Goes against the whole master plan doesn’t it… Removes the point of the exercise? ” There was about 30 comments and I stopped reading. It was then I knew what I had to do for my own mental health and personal freedom of expression.
I remember asking my mother about this one true church business. I mean don’t they all say stuff like that? My mother assures the young 10 year old me, that ‘we are the truest of the true’.
When I was 11 I was told a story in Sunday school about a girl with disabilities. It was read from a copy of the Mormon magazine for little kids, called The Friend. In the story a girl’s disability is likened to being a flower that is placed in a shabby and cracked flowerpot. But, it is ok as the shitty pot is just for this life on earth, when in heaven that flower will be put in a beautiful and pristine flowerpot for all eternity.
The lesson was that I and other kids with hospital visits and inoperable’ operable medical problems, were meant to just be happy and grateful for everything as we had chosen this life and were made aware of the obstacles in the place our spirits lived before going to earth. The Mormon church really loved inspiration porn. I really wish I had known that term when I was young.
I think it is this mentality, the mentality that this life is just a pre game show to something afterwards that is much better, can make you less likely to try and change things in a concrete way or to have a more malleable way of thinking. When remember things I have said or done because of my religious convictions, I am mortified. It is my constant goal to learn, unlearn and relearn as much as I can. to what is going on around you in the here and now.
I want to make this world a good and inclusive place. This world deserves to be saved and kept from going under. I want to see all the different people in this world to feel safe and we are not there. I refuse to simply shake my head and say something like ”Oh it is just like they say in the scriptures, we will all be with heavenly father before long.”
No, the time for prayers is over. The status quo must be shaken and pulled out from the roots. It is no time to become complacent. We must maintain a healthy and productive rage.
I was told that in doing all the things that I was told not to do (sex before marrying, drinking anything alcoholic, kissing girls, trying recreational drugs, reading feminist theory, spending blissful Sundays doing anything other than going to church) would bring me sadness and disappointment from my father in heaven.I was also taught that lowering my standards would bring me great sadness. That is why that episode of South Park is so good, the one where the boys go to heaven and find out the one true faith is Mormons. Then you see two missionaries are talking on a white cloud and one says, ”We are going to go learn about how stealing hurts us on the inside.” Again, it is my father who finds this hilarious. My mother is not as amused.
The deep inner sadness has not resulted from me breaking all these rules. I suffer from depression and no bible story can fix that, on the contrary it has bought me nothing but joy and happiness. I was given a patriarchal blessing at age 17 and i wish I still had a copy of it. I remember one line in it, ”Doubt is a destroying agent.” Doubt in the church, that is. I have found my curious and enquiring mind to be the opposite of a destructive force.
It is now in the present political climate that I feel that I may not have done enough. I have deleted my Mormon relatives from Facebook as it was too much emotional energy trying to explain and educate. With ardent faith such as the type I associate with the particular religion in which I was raised, explaining that birth control being easily acquired is not something that effects your choice to simply not take it, is not affective.
One of my Mormon uncles threw away all their Cat Stevens records after it was revealed that Cat Stevens had converted to the Muslim religion and changed his name to Yusuf Islam. It was only acceptable if people were converted to the Mormon faith.
Growing up I have heard members of the church make homophobic jokes, racist jokes and sexist jokes. I witnessed a fiancé of one of my cousins grill my brother on what scale of attractiveness he thought our then 13 year old sister was. The fiancé said it was important to know what level of hotness his sisters were. He steadfastly ignored my outraged expression. I was without the vocabulary at the age of 16 to articulate my rage out loud.
This fiancé would later tell my sister that the reason he hated me so much was because he had never met a girl younger than him who was just as smart if not smarter. This man is now married with four kids of his own and lives in the states.
In 2015 during one of the Republican primary debates, Donald Trump declared that destroying political correctness was his No 1 campaign issue. No doubt it worked and all the conservative far right wing white people rejoiced at the prospect of no longer having to worry about being held accountable for their words. It was not only Americans who rejoiced at this promise, it is people here in Australia, even if some of those people did not realize that their outraged exclamations of ‘’reverse racism’ and ‘its political correctness gone mad’’ and fear of anything that is not middle class white christianity, have contributed to the second wave of popularity that Pauline Hanson is enjoying.
People who say these things but are not able to see the thread that connects these comments and beliefs with harmful political ideologies. These ideologies are in power now and there are people who will not survive the next four years as a result. Helen Razor has written that we should not hate individuals but hate the system. I hate so many systems. It bothers me that he faith I was raised to have is a faith that seems built on a base of imperialist white heteronormative capitalist Patriarchy. The very basis that this diminutive feminist killjoy wishes to dismantle.
Is that enough, though? Is it enough to simply expand the circle of moral concern? No. But it is a start. I will continue to read poetry.I will continue to read zines, see live music and encourage the creative output of so many talented people that I am lucky to know and be friends with, as well as the creative output of people I do not know personally. That and perhaps taking Helen Razor’s advice which is to read some actual books by Karl Marx.