Thursday, October 4, 2012

Why I Am Not Fair to the Mormons

I received an email two days ago from someone I admire and love. It was in regards to my thoughts on being religion free that I posted last time on the blog (see link).
He writes:

Dear D'Arcy, 

"I read your blog post from last week celebrating 5 years emancipation from the church...You talk about having a rebirth, but you throw a lot of dirt on the church in the process.  When you imply that you couldn't laugh, take walks, eat cupcakes, or see Broadway shows before you left the church, or that in the church the only things you could really hope for were a husband and a family, or that in the church God expects you to be a polygamist wife you are distorting the truth and simply not telling the whole story. 

You're casting blame on the church.  But, I take walks, laugh, eat cupcakes, and watch Broadway plays (albeit not on Broadway, having never been to New York).  Lots of church members find swimming or painting or dance or entrepreneurship or drama to be inherent in their faith--expressions of identity that go beyond marriage and family.  That there are a lot of people in the church who are insensitive and inexperienced goes without saying. That you struggle with the church is also apparent.  But saying that the church is totally at fault is not telling the whole story and doesn't seem fair."

After thinking a bit about this I have decided to respond publicly--cause, well, I want to:

First of all, Mormons are AWESOME dancers!

Second of all--when the LDS church is fair to women, then maybe I will be fair to the LDS church (bam! yeah, take that mature answer!) But honestly folks, that's not really an answer. The real answer is, "um, huh?"

So, here is my best explanation (with some help from an articulate friend who talked through some of this with me this week) on why I am seemingly not fair to the Mormon church.

In a distant land....far, far away...called The Matrix (beat!), when I was still Mormon, every small action of every day, every small act, was informed and shaped by being Mormon. Every moment was full of little moral dilemmas. Should I have done that? Watched that? Thought that? Said that? Worn that? Kiss that with my tongue as long as I did?

In this land, I would not have enjoy a naked Daniel Radcliffe in the Broadway play Equus (stage seating too, I might add) the way I do now because now I do not have any guilt over watching naked people on stage do some acting. That fabulous play was not bound by my Mormon fear of choosing and liking the wrong thing and offending God.  

And cupcakes! Sure, I enjoyed them as a Mormon....BUT....

What about cupcake made with alcohol or coffee? Those are da bomb-diggity! But, even buying a cupcake was an event full of Matrix thoughts: "Should you have born your testimony to that person who asked you about your Utah driver’s license?  Did you bring along pass-along cards or Books of Mormon?  And if not, why?  Are you the clean, bright, happy, healthy representative you ought to be of the Church? "

These are just small examples of the questions floating around in my head as I lived my daily life as a Mormon. A constant barrage, a discourse of inadequacy and guilt--peppered with pats on the back and feelings of marked achievement (look at that man with the smoking addiction! Look at that man with the beer! Look at the women with the tank top! I am not like that, and that is good.)

And while my emancipation took a while to achieve, it was worth the struggle. Why? Well, my friend described it this way, there "is this amazing feeling of peace I feel. There is an enormous, beautiful, quiet place in my heart that never existed there before.  I know I am capable of making good decisions.  I’m not so afraid of words or actions or thoughts anymore.  I’m not so afraid.  And that makes everything, EVERYTHING, better."

To make this briefer--

At one point in time, the church infused everything in my life (demanded to infuse my life). Thus, the church has a major responsibility to answer for the anxiety and fear and guilt that also infused my life.  That is not to say that there are no good things about the Mormon church.  That is simply to acknowledge that my experience in the church was, in fact, not chiefly a positive in my life. And that is the truth. 

And when I speak my truth--then why does the word "fair" come in to play?

Has the church been fair to my truth? 

Does the church acknowledge each Mormon woman struggling to find a worth outside of the confines it has prescribed?  

Is the church fair when it constantly presents talks and lessons and activities and attitudes that make it crystal clear that without a husband and without children a woman is incomplete.  Imperfect.  Sad.  Yearning.  Waiting.

Has the church been fair when it funds campaigns about Prop 8?

Has the church been fair and truthful when presenting its past?

Has the church been fair when choosing what color of skin was worthy to hold the priesthood? What gender even?

Has the church been fair?

Maybe to some it has (if you're a white guy, you've got it made). Maybe to others it hasn't (having a vagina doesn't help your case much). 

But what I do know is that I really do not care if I paint the Mormon church in a light that its members find unpleasing and unfair.

And that is the true freedom I have gained. 

And that, friends, is why I sing and dance and eat my cupcakes with more zest and zeal than I did the first 30 years of my life.


EJB said...

I appreciate what you've said. The Mormon church teaches a "works" salvation-if you perform, you're in. If you can look right, act right, think right, do right, you are saved from damnation. When have you done enough? There is no assurance of salvation, it's dependent on you and you sin. This is not Biblical Christianity. The Bible teaches God wants a relationship with you. He knows you sin and loves you anyway. This is not license to sin. When we know how He loves us and Christ died for us, we choose to do what's right in an outflow of gratitude and our resulting love for Him. We have liberty in Christ. Righteousness cannot be legislated. It is a change that comes from within because the Holy Spirit lives in those who love Christ. In short, Christians do good BECAUSE they are saved. Mormons do good because they hope to EARN salvation. There's a huge difference. The Mormon church has some wonderful people in it. But without grace it's a heavy burden to bear. I pray you find freedom in Christ.

D'Arcy Benincosa said...

That's awesome EJB!

I think I'm gonna live dogma free for awhile. You know, like a health cleanse.

EJB said...

Absolutely! "Religion" is man's attempt to get to God. God doesn't want that, either. From earlier posts, I can see that you are a spiritual person. The Bible can help you find answers that will bless you even if you never want to go the organized religion route again. If you think leaving the Mormon church was freedom, wait till you find out why they call us "born again"! ;D

Bec's life said...

D'arcy I think this is awesome. I wish that there were more people that could be brave enough to walk outside the lines, so that they could find this peace and freedom that you talk about. I know what you are talking about and I am truly much more happy and peaceful in my life now, then when I walked around with the whole "guilt" driven mind set. I don't believe that God wants us to walk around feeling bad about being human. We are here to have joy are we not? This is taught in the LDS church from the time that we go to primary. There are so many wonderful things about the Mormon way and the teachings, but also some very ugly things. I have experienced both and I am happy to say that I have crossed over the line of feeling constrained in my life. I love the teachings but have very little patience for judgemental attitudes from those that are hardly living their religion by casting the first stone. I know that God knows the hearts of his children and he wants us to have joy and happiness in this life. It seems as if you have this joy and happiness and that is hardly being unfair to Mormons. Any mormon that does not rejoice in your personal happiness or your walk of progression in life is the one that isn't being fair. Who wants to be around a bunch of people that are sizing each other's spirituality, lifestyle choices, free agency? I thought the whole idea of Jesus Christ was having Charity. According to the scriptures Charity rejoiceth in the truth among other things like kindness, unselfishness, not focusing on self and if we don't possess this quality we are not going to heaven. Many "mormons" that claim to be top notch "mormons" do and say things that totally clash with these teachings. So, with what we know about the mormon religion it is not our place to judge them, realizing that they are just as imperfect as the "smoker" or the "drug addict", unwed mother or the law of chastity breaker etc. In my 38 years with having experienced the mormon religion full force and now having found a balance that works for me, I have some wisdom under my belt. Whatever makes your heart sing is the inspiration that if followed will lead to Joy and happiness. I avoid anyone that trys to take this away from me. I seek for energy that lifts and inspires. Haters need not apply in my life. Bishops, prophets, moms or sisters, doesn't matter. My eternal salvation is between myself and God the end.

Brooke said...

D'Arcy, thank you so much for posting this and other posts about your experience with Mormonism. They resonate so closely with my own experiences and you write them so well. I love, love, love these posts.