Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Book of Mormon Girl--First 2 Chapters

I was lucky enough to get to spend some time with Joanna Brooks last Thursday. I photographed her with her book, and she kindly gave me a signed copy that was completely unexpected and sincerely sweet of her. She is just a good person. She is a smart person. She is a person that knows what to say and how to make people feel understood.

Since I have not actively participated in the Mormon church for the last little while (besides haphazard blogging with the Exponent), I had sort of forgotten that the world sees Mormons as a peculiar people. Most of those "peculiar" behaviors are no longer part of my life, but some of them are and always will be. However, with the upcoming election, I am being reminded of all the ways that "outsiders" look at my family and see their peculiar behavior. I vacillate between agreeing with the world (it's just green tea people!), and wanting to explain some things more clearly when the world gets it wrong (no, there is no practice of polygamy in the church today). 

I snuggled down this week to start reading the memoir. In the past year, I've only read one other book dealing with Mormonism and that was Elna Baker's The New York Regional Singles Mormon Halloween Dance. After reading that, I had to call my good friend and have a long, frustrated, sad cry. I identified with the Elna's story so exactly that it caused me to feel such loss and such remorse over distancing myself from my Mormon-ness and also extreme frustration that I was still awkward and unknowingly unsure about how to participate in the regular world outside of Mormon identification. I felt, quite honestly, that it would have either been easier to stay (which it most certainly would have been). I questioned why I put myself and my family and my friends through my disassociation and extreme doubt and rabid vocalization of my dissatisfaction. But that's the thing with dissatisfaction, it's hard to keep it quiet.

In enters The Book of Mormon Girl. I sat down on Friday and read three pages. Those pages, so beauitflly and poetically and precisely written to paint the life of a Mormon girl. Those pages that will mean completely different things to Mormon people than they will to non-Mormons. Those pages that evoke smells and sounds and memories of a good life, of the beautiful traditions, and the wholesome goodness that defined my childhood.

I shut the book.  I was not sure I could go there again. Not sure I wanted to bring up the feelings of loneliness and unbelonging that come when I see my happy Mormon friends attending their church meetings. The feelings of being misunderstood, or being perceived as a sinner or lazy. The feelings that come up and that I must process and address so that I can keep living an authentic life.

Saturday night I worked through another chapter, and I mourned not feeling a part of the only community I have ever really known. I thought I had processed through these emotions, but that is the funny thing, your childhood never goes away. Even if I thought I had put enough distance between who I am now and who I was as a Mormon--I'm not sure it will ever go away.

I shut the book.  I was feeling uncomfortable. I was imagining the life I could have had as a Mormon. The life I had always imagined having, which looks nothing like the fabulous life I am living now. 

Sunday morning, I opened it again and kept on going. Through Joanna's descriptions of her childhood, I returned to my childhood. I felt the love of my grandmother as we would sit on a church pew together. I remembered the special day that my father baptized me and gave me the gift of the Holy Ghost through a special blessing. I remembered feeling so wanted and loved by a kind Heavenly Father. I remembered when Jesus was a pivotal person in my life. I remember wearing plaid jumpers and having no bigger desires then to live a life pleasing to God. I remember a time when I never, never let a curse word pass my lips (hard to believe!)

It was like all the perfect and happy and warm and comforting moments of being Mormon flashed through my head in little vignettes painting in pinks and golds. With all the good memories, it gets easy to forget the bad ones, the ugly ones. I wanted to make excuses for all the hurt and pain that I suffered and that millions of women and men of all colors suffered. It made me want to forget that I care about gay marriage and equal rights and patriarchy, and personal freedom and choice. It made me go deep into my heart space to ask myself if I should be Mormon again ( I still check in about once a year).

Tomorrow. I'll tackle chapter 3.

14 comments:

Angie said...

Clearly, I need to read this book.

Real faith is hard and anybody who says different is a dirty liar. I am still a Mormon but I care a lot about all those things you mentioned and it hurts my heart. I too, love the community of my church but I often don't feel like I fit into that community terribly well. I am the one who is different. Luckily my little ward here embraces my differences, but that feels rare and precious. You wander through the world trying to make it warmer, better, more beautiful for those around you. Mormon or not, you are doing it right.

Kristopher Orr said...

Thanks for sharing :) looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

Unknown said...

Look forward to your blog post on this. I read it over the summer, and though I wasn't raised Mormon, I can imagine that place of goodness.

Andrew S said...

Loved this post...I will have to write more in another comment when my boss isn't looking over my shoulder...

Unknown said...

Great review D'Arcy. Thanks for sharing it with me!

Andrew S said...

p.s., commenting so I'm subscribed to the discussion. feel free to delete this.)

Liz said...

Hey d'Arcy! I always love your comments-- I love your photography and I love the way you taught English to my son. I feel your pain so deeply. My own doubts surfaced after my first bout of depression, at age 8, when my mother had the 5th child and I felt overwhelmed and at a loss for even a shred of control in my own young life. Decades later at BYU Sam Rushforth helped me see the world, complete with literature, biology and sociology. I felt a wild freedom as I drank it in. I felt then that I would leave eventually, but perhaps I would stay long enough to steer the course of the Mormon culture. I must have given up on that one. Now I am estranged from extended family, in my own microcosm with my children and husband. Partially out of necessity and partially from desire, I am beginning a career at 42, throwing my family into more turmoil that I can only hope will eventually return to us as blessings. There is dreadful loneliness for my family even though we have each other. On the one hand it hurts, but on the other hand I remember how I never really felt a part of the Mormon scene, either. It seems like an all-or-nothing culture in many ways, fostering orthodoxy and false belief. I long for a more inclusive circle and a way to reconcile my broken beliefs, my cynicism, and my pain. I'm putting the book on my list... thanks!

Bethany said...

Love the courage it takes to be nothing but real, D'Arcy. I've (much to my own dismay) struggled with my own sister's disassociation with the church and my brother's deep questioning of many of the doctrines you've thought through so carefully. I love them dearly and I don't want their beliefs, choices, and questions to affect our sense of family--it shouldn't! But, for me it does. I'm ashamed to admit that I can feel real and sincere happiness for a friend finding out she and her boyfriend are pregnant or that two friends that are in a wonderfully committed lesbian relationship just got engaged, yet I still struggle internally with my own siblings' lifestyles and beliefs and feel like our relationship isn't what it used to be as a result. So shallow, hypocritical, and--yet--undeniably real. It's much more a commentary on my own weaknesses than anything else, but I think there is something very real to your sense of nostalgia and loss--I've felt it too though from a different perspective.

D'Arcy Benincosa said...

Angie, I think you would enjoy it. I've only gotten to chapter 3, but it's such a lovely and yet real portrayal of the difficulties that come from the unfailing devotion to any religion.

And I want to go to lunch with you. So glad we have reconnected like this! Go fb!

D'Arcy Benincosa said...

KTO--I'd love to hear some of your thoughts on this too. Next time I'm out east?

D'Arcy Benincosa said...

Andrew...tell your boss that this is important!

D'Arcy Benincosa said...

Liz! Thank you so much for your vulnerability and truth. I appreciate them and it is good for me to hear and be there for others as they have heard and have been there for me.

I think that you have crafted a steady internal compass that leads you where you need to go. And good for you! Because really, so many others end up pulling and pushing in ways that make us exist instead of actually LIVE!

D'Arcy Benincosa said...

Bethany, My parents and my older sister struggle very much with me not being who I once was in their eyes. It gets heavy to constantly defend one's actions and who one is. And then when you don't defend it gets quiet and they make pleas for your return. The saddest day to me was the day my younger sister got married (she is not LDS anymore) and she had champagne and sparkling cider served at her reception. My sister, her husband, and her children all refused to come (the kids probably would have if mom would have let them) because of this. That was the moment that I realized our family was just never going to be the same and that some things get near impossible to get over.

I think you are too hard on yourself though. I think that life is a journey and there will be ups and downs, but that some things will just naturally get better. I hope that for you and your siblings!

Angie said...

Definitely- I'm coming out in March. Or if you happen to be in Memphis...