Freckles in April: Skeletons

Friday, February 27, 2015

Skeletons



It's been just over a year since I broke up with the Mormon church. At Aaron's request I still generally attend church so I've had the chance to hear a lot of lessons from a very new and different perspective.

Just a few months after my decision we had a Sunday School lesson in which the teacher asked, "How can we help our children stay true to the gospel?" The answers were along the lines of: teach them to read scriptures, have family home evening, pray for them, encourage them to follow the commandments, etc.




As I listened to these devoted parents trying to come up with ways to help their children stay in the church they love, I started to squirm in my seat. "My parents did all those things," I thought, "and ultimately they didn't help."

I should have raised my hand and said, "You need to teach them about the skeletons."

It's kind of like the sex talk. Do you want your kids hearing the details from you, the loving well-informed parent? Or would you prefer they learn about it from some punk kid on the playground who only sort of knows the truth mixed in with some total crazytown info he overheard from his older brother?

The Internet is that punk kid, and all that information-- true, false, a mix of the two-- is laid out for your kids to find with a simple Google search. They're not going to learn it in Sunday School or from the Church Educational System because, as Boyd K. Packer put it, "Some things that are true are not very useful." and the church doesn't like to talk about the skeletons in its own closet.

Let me tell you something about the people who are leaving the church right now: they are good people. For the most part they are not leaving because they "want to sin." They're leaving because they've learned things about the church itself that make them deeply uncomfortable.

I've wondered lately if things might have gone differently if I had had a more honest and truthful view of church history and other bothersome things while growing up. It's possible that I still would have landed where I did (the church's unequal treatment of women and gays is a huge issue for me and may have been enough on its own) but maybe I would feel a little more warm and fuzzy toward the people at the top. Instead, I look at them and think, "You knew and you never said anything." And then I have to take deep breaths and work very hard at not becoming a bitter apostate.



At the Provo temple during my BYU days


From my personal experience I can tell you that finding out about the church's skeletons from the internet as an adult instead of from the church itself felt a lot like spending 24 years of my life in loving, constant devotion to someone and then discovering that they'd been lying to my face the entire time. I'd hear something in passing or see an odd comment in a news article and think, "Surely that cannot be true! I never learned anything about that in all my years of Sunday School and seminary or at BYU!" And then 10 minutes of research would confirm that it was not only true, but also there was SO MUCH MORE that I'd never heard before and it all made me feel like I'd been duped. I spent 4 years feeling heartsick and used and trying to ignore the skeletons. It didn't work and I left.


If you want to help your children stay in the church you need to teach them about the skeletons.

Tell them that Joseph and Emma did not have an amazing love story. Tell them that he had as many as 40 wives; one was as young as 14 and some were married to other men who were faithful members. Yes, he probably had sex with at least some of them. Emma hated polygamy and ultimately separated herself from the church.

Tell them that he was in Carthage jail because he broke a law, not because he was falsely accused.

Tell them about the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Tell them that innocent men, women and children were tricked into surrendering and were then murdered by members of the church and Native American accomplices. Tell them that it may have been done on Brigham Young's orders.

Tell them about the Book of Abraham. Yes, the church has the papyrii. No, it doesn't contain what we have in our current scriptures.

Tell them that prophets aren't infallible. Tell them about blacks and the priesthood ban.

Do your research. Know your history. And tell them about it.


I don't blame my parents for not telling me about these things because the information wasn't readily available when they were raising their kids and they didn't know. It's easily found now though, especially as the church releases essays on sensitive topics. Tell your kids about the skeletons. It might be hard or awkward but they will grow up knowing that you did your best to be open with them and that you valued honesty and integrity enough to tackle hard topics and trust them with the information. When they have questions they'll come to you instead of that punk kid, The Internet and maybe you'll be able to save them from the hurt that has killed the faith of so many others.


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25 comments:

  1. I completely agree with you. So many people don't want to hear it through. I have no intention of leaving the church but Sunday school is torture. I have learned all you mentioned and more (tithing funds and hunting reserves?!!!). I spend my church time reconciling MY faith. And I try to help others with similar issues not feel alone. Hopefully there is strength in numbers.

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    1. I'm glad that people like you stay and try to give support! I didn't have anyone 4 years ago and I felt so alone.

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  2. I really appreciate this post a lot. I've thought about commenting on other posts you've written about the church but I always worry I'll come across as a jerk or something when, in fact, I empathize so much with the choice that you've made. (It's really hard to be so paranoid, you know?) Anyway...

    I am still an active member of the church and I think knowing about the skeletons is precisely why. My parents, specifically my dad, taught me about most, if not all, of these skeletons. I have never believed that prophets/apostles were infallible because of the way I was taught at home and, frankly, that has probably offended some people that I've shared that with. I'm still uncomfortable with some of current church culture/doctrine, but it's not enough to keep me away.

    That being said, I can 100% empathize with the people who are walking away. I have considered it myself, but ultimately came to a different conclusion. Frankly, the information about these and other skeletons IS easy to come by in this day and age, and if people haven't been exposed to it or, worse yet, been told that it is false....well, what do we think is going to happen?

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    1. "if people haven't been exposed to it or, worse yet, been told that it is false....well, what do we think is going to happen?" -you nailed it. I had been told by SO many people that anyone saying JS had multiple wives was a bitter apostate trying to lead me astray. Then here comes the church with their essay...

      I know that's really hard for a lot of people!

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  3. This is wonderful! My family will never even address these skeletons, so we just brush it all under the rug. It's too bad. My husband and I left together, before we knew any of these skeletons, and after leaving, we discovered all of these issues, which made us feel relieved that we had left. Had I known about these skeletons before leaving the church, I'm not sure if I would had stayed, because the church in its current form is what bothered me. And Sunday school, the temple, general conference, and other parts of the church would've been even more painful, I think! I guess that's why my family has no interest in anything but the feel goods they get from their surface knowledge of their religion.

    Thanks for this post!

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  4. I have so many thoughts on this, most of them are still in some kind of Emotional Thought Soup, so I sit here looking at my screen and crying and wishing for more clarity and less Thought Soup.

    xox

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  5. What are your thoughts on The Book of Mormon?

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    1. I think JS made it up by pulling from View of the Hebrews and using the names of nearby places as inspiration. That being said, there are good principles to be found within its pages.

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  6. I so appreciate your thoughtful mind. I definitely agree with that approach to religious/gospel teaching in the home. I think the church as an organization has always operated on the belief that one should build a faith and then hope that finding out its "skeletons" won't knock it down, which is perhaps both naive and fearful. I absolutely believe that it's better to incorporate a more complete and well-rounded knowledge into our faith from the beginning. I think that is how resiliency is built into our faith. But also, being entirely truthful is just the right thing to do. It shows a love and respect for those whom the church's (or individuals' within the church) practices have hurt and wronged.

    I also want to teach my children that our faith is in our theology. I don't want them to associate their faith more with the church organization than with Mormon theology. Doctrines like the pre-mortal existence, Eve's empowering role in the Plan of Salvation as we can understand it, the complete emphasis on Christ as our Savior and the doctrine of a loving, feeling, compassionate and inclusive God who intends to save all His children. That is the Mormonism I understand and have confidence in. Reconciling that with the church in practice can sometimes be very painful but I think it is supposed to be. I think it is the work God intends for us for many reasons not the least of which being that it insists that we take ownership of our faith.

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    1. I love this comment. This is exactly where I am right now--trying to maintain and build faith in the theology and in the doctrine, and hoping to reconcile that with the culture/organization/history. I try to have faith that God and his plan/gospel are perfect, but of course we, as imperfect people, will mess things up trying to implement His will.

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  7. Good for you! That's the truth, get the skeletons out!

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  8. I'm not affiliated with the LDS church in any way (I grew up Lutheran and still am)- I feel like I should mention that. But I do know that there is rarely a source of greater pain than when a religious institution fails. Across the board they are (supposed) to be seen as a source of protection, salvation, and kindness. When those things aren't shown, it's devastating. I hope there is a way for you to reconcile your faith by having your church address your issues with a positive outcome. If not, I hope you find a faith community that's honest about its past (history is so rarely pretty) and recognizes how much you have to offer regardless of your gender. All in all, kudos for your bravery and honesty and I wish you the best.

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  9. This is such a great post. Thanks for putting this out there!

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  10. Thank you for writing this post, Kayla. I have actually been hoping that you would write more about your experiences both in and out of the church, and how your faith has evolved, and how you incorporate evolving beliefs in your family. I find your attitude very inspiring--I love how open and honest you are about what is (I'm sure!) an uncomfortable topic. I think the church can really benefit from people like you speaking up. I think I wrote a similar comment on your last post about the church so I'm probably repeating myself, but I do find it hard to have faith when there are so many issues, large and small, that just don't feel right to me. I have a hard time separating what I believe must be God's will and doctrine from what seems to me like incorrect interpretation or implementation of that doctrine. I could be completely wrong, but I'm sort of rolling with the idea right now that communication with God might be like trying to talk to someone at a great distance through a walkie talkie, through static and buzzing and white noise. He's probably saying all the right things, and we probably hear it through imperfect ears and perspectives, and try to fill in the gaps ourselves . . . and I think that we often fill those gaps in incorrectly. Who knows, maybe I've got it all wrong, but this makes sense to me. Anyway, thank you for this post, I always love reading your thoughts on faith.

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  11. Bah - I typed up a comment but I think the interwebs lost it. Thanks for sharing this! My husband was raised Mormon and left the church when he was 20. Your post has me wondering had he known about the church's "skeletons" all along, would it have affected his decision to leave? Quite possibly. Our church community now is intentionally open to skeptics and those with questions. Because my husband comes from a rigid religious background, he is even more grateful for this community where it's safe to have questions. A healing book I'm reading now is called Jesus Feminist by Sarah Bessey. I heartily recommend it to those who have been frustrated with people demeaning women in the name of "God." Like a commenter said above, kudos on your bravery. Growing up in small town AZ, I see how tight-knit the LDS community is and how hard it can be to share hard things like this at the risk of standing out.

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  12. I think this is something that was very painful for me as well. When I first started discovering the "skeletons" and asking about them and wanting to talk about them publicly, I was shut down pretty brutally, both personally and online. Now the things I was saying are considered "mainstream" and totally acceptable, largely due to the church being more transparent. But no one has ever tried, either in person, or the church as an institution, to bring back the people like me that were pushed out of the church for exploring the skeletons. I'm basically seen as a casualty, a "sad" thing but nothing more. I also don't trust the Mormon community, because even if I were to come back now that the skeletons are being discussed, I'd always be afraid of what trigger I'd inevitably set off, and have my faith community turn against me again. There is no safety for the curious and outspoken doubter.

    As an aside, I can't tell you how much your first post detailing why you left the church meant to me. I have lots of former Mormon friends, liberal active Mormon friends, "TBM" friends, a whole great support system and I am so grateful. But I don't have any in "mixed" marriages, where one spouse stayed and the other left. (I did, they divorced. Messily.) Beyond that, I didn't know anyone "like me" someone who liked sewing, clothing,blogging and DIY stuff, but who had also left the church. Of course someone doesn't have to have the same interests as me to be a good friend, but it was reassuring to find that someone I related to so much was going through the same things. Thanks for sharing these things in such a thoughtful and kind way.

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  13. i appreciate your point of view, kayla, and i admire your bravery for sharing it so openly. i don't think you have chosen an easy path, and i sincerely hope you find the peace you are seeking. i recently read this quote by elder callister, and it puts my own point of view on these things into better words than i could use. i hope you don't mind me posting it here: "I can live with some human imperfections, even among prophets of God - that is to be expected in mortal beings. I can live with some alleged scientific findings contrary to the Book of Mormon; time will correct those. And I can live with some seeming historical anomalies; they are minor in the total landscape of truth. But I cannot live without the doctrinal truths and ordinances restored by Joseph Smith. I cannot live without the priesthood of God to bless my family, and I cannot live without knowing my wife and children are sealed to me for eternity. That is the choice we face - a few unanswered questions on one hand versus a host of doctrinal certainties and the power of God on the other."

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  14. Kayla--
    i actually have been praying for you as you go through this emotional and spiritual battle. thanks for once again sharing things on your heart. i am a Christian and several churches (we don't have one church across america, but many many that you can choose from that believe the Bible) that i have been in growing up have failed to stand correctly on the Bible and what it says. it is with a heavy heart that my family left those. a church and its standards and principles will never be good enough, because it is led by humans who are sinners. the only Person who will never fail you is God. He is the only sinless One who can love you, care for you, protect you, and keep you forever and do it perfectly. i wonder if you might like a copy of a Bible if you don't have one. i would be happy to send you one. there are so many passages in it that keep me comforted in hard times that God is in control and has my best in His heart.

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  15. I admire you for discussing this sensitive topic so openly. I wish you peace, wherever your spiritual journey leads.

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  18. I guess it depends on if you're coherent enough to not post your comment twice ^^ #troll #maybegoogleisthespirit #hangonletmeaskthem #iknowgoogleistrue

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  19. I am not a Mormon but I am a Christian and have grown up in church and have brought my three children up in church. My standard for life and for training my three children has always been the bible, God's word. I learned at a young age not to keep my eyes on a person because they might stumble but to keep my eyes on the unchanging God. He never changes, His word has been true for eternity. I've tried to teach my children the same. Every answer for every trial in life may be found in the bible, God's word. I pray that you will continue to find the answers and the peace you are looking for.

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Thanks for your comment!

Any trolls will be dragged into the trees and beaten soundly.

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