Mormonism is for the “Saints” who can afford it

My parents were Mormon, or at least claimed to be. Blake’s (my bio father) family was and my moms family was, so they both decided, Mormonism was for us. However, it was far from perfect.

My mom married the first guy she dated. Mistake number one in my opinion. Blake is not called “Dad” because he wasn’t a real father to me. He was physically and emotionally abusive. To all of my siblings, my mom, and myself. We were constantly running from him. Moving in the blink of an eye. I never would get the chance to say goodbye to any of my friends from school because mom would tell us we were going for a car ride, and upon reaching our destination, tell us that we weren’t going back.

My mom couldn’t think for herself. Problem number two. She would talk to her bishop about divorce and the bishop would then tell her that Blake is the man of the house, head of the family, and she needed to support him. So after moving, a week, a few months, a year, whenever, she would find him, or he would find us, and we would be back to square one.

Blake has destroyed lives. He violently shook my little sister and that lead to a speech impediment. He’s threatened our lives with guns, broken fingers, and mentally scared my family. It was to the points that when I was in middle school, I had even tried to kill myself. Both times, my best friend had shown up unannounced.

My mom wanted 12 kids without in anyway, shape or form, planning on how to take care of all of us. Mistake number three. Thank god there were only six. Every day was a challenge. What were we going to eat? Is Blake coming home tonight? Where are we going to find extra quarters for the laundry machine? We’ve been out of soap for a week.

Mom didn’t have a degree. Blake didn’t have a degree. She was working as a maid he did everything and nothing. Blake never held a job for more than a few months. When he wasn’t working, he was at home.

My mom I think, is indeed a bit crazy. I a kid, she taught me that Ariel from the Little mermaid was sinning because she was immodest. She taught me that if I didn’t read the Bible and Book of Mormon that I would go to Hell. So even before I could read all the words, and would pretend to read it thinking that maybe I could trick Jesus into thinking that I had done my part.

And we went to church.

We were the poor family in the stake. The church gave us food once a month. It was awful. I had a hard time eating it because it was of the lowest quality. Bottom line, as a kid in elementary school, I knew it was shit.

Everyday throughout elementary school and middle school I prayed that Blake wouldn’t be home. I would make bargains with God. I told God that I was doing everything he told me to. I told God that I was a good girl and asked him to protect me. After all isn’t that was all the Prophets would say? “God will protect me because I’m righteous.” I told God that I would do everything 200% if he would just make Blake leave me alone. God said no.

I had one dress for Sundays. I wore it every sabbath. A jean skirt and white button-down. I wore old tennis shoes to church. Mormonism is for the “Saints” who can afford it. We were laughed at, scorned and ignored in our ward. It was always hard to make friends each time. Every other girl in my classes had the same “box head” hair cut with the same highlights, the same fake orange tan, and the same clear lip gloss. They wore the newest look every Sunday with a new matching purse to go with their shoes.

I remember overhearing comments such as, “I thought you were supposed to dress up at church to show respect! How come she (points at me) doesn’t? Is she not respectful of god?!” And, “My mom donated so much money to charities this year, how come they still look like that?!” And many others.

But that wasn’t the worst of it. I would see these people both girls and guys doing so many “inappropriate” activities at school and the boys would be up blessing the sacrament each Sunday. I hated it. I knew the blessing by heart, and strived my hardest to take care of my family, and obeyed every rule perfectly, and these boys who beat kids up at school, made out in the bathrooms, and smoked behind the building were more worthy of passing the sacrament than I was. Just because I was a girl.

Then when camp came around, the boys went on excursions where they swam, canoed, rode horses, and fished but the girls camp was at the same church-owned campsite where we were forbidden to go anywhere or do anything except paint pieces of wood, do our hair, pray, and make up chants for the morning and afternoon testimony meetings.

We were told over and over again that if you have a choice between marriage and a mission to get married and have kids. The same was encouraged for school.

I felt useless. These men were encouraged to do great things and to accomplish so much, and here I was told to obey the men and to love unconditionally, forgive everyone, be a mom, and at that point in my life I wanted nothing to do with kids. Mom had pulled me out of school (5th grade) to babysit her kids she she could go to work. I had to grow up at much too young an age.

I had my first boyfriend at age 16. He was the Japanese exchange student who attended seminary. Later after about a month of hanging out (we hadn’t kisses or established a relationship) I found out he was just taking it because he had nothing else to do that period and seminary doesn’t affect your GPA. My bishop at my “you just turned 16” meeting said that it was a sin to date a non-Mormon. So of course upon telling him that I couldn’t date him anymore because my bishop said so, he got me thinking. Why?

That’s a dangerous word for any mormon.

The day that set me rolling was the day that our Sunday school teacher decided that we were going to learn the roles of the woman in comparison to the roles of the men. After the lesson I asked if men and women were equal in the church and why the young men were given more than twice the funding for activities than the girls were. The result was a mess and I was told “because thats how god wants it.”

So I thought, how can I believe it if a man wrote it, a man leads it, and our Heavenly Mother is never mentioned? So I did what the scriptures told me. I prayed about it. I prayed about it for weeks with nothing. I cried. I had dedicated 17 years of my life to something that didn’t exist! I had been closed minded and I had guilted Kengo into taking missionary courses just so I could date him. I decided that I was fed up with it. I talked my mother into checking into a safe house after one nasty episode with Blake and to press charges. She just needed support and I was taught that keeping this family was a command from God.

It felt good to for once think, well fuck god! He wasn’t there for me when Blake beat pushed and spit on us, so now I do things my way.

In the end I graduated High school 8th in my class, mom married my step-dad Larry and had yet another baby, I ‘m working my way through college and my parents are still crazy Mormon who keep sending missionaries my way, and I send them theirs, crying. I’m not anti-Mormon, I’m ex-Mormon.

Editor’s note I got permission to post this story for you here after I received it as an email with the following preface:

I just wanted to thank you for the very accurate and beautiful piece you’ve put together called Ex-mormon. It is so well put together that I felt like I had been shot into the past.

I was “mormon” too at one point. Recently I’ve been putting my own historical story together, not just for me, but for others like me who have had that epiphany and need an outlet and to not feel alone. I was looking through Google in hopes to see an example or something for guidance and found it in your stories.

So far I’ve collected the dates from my many journals through 4th grade to present, and was looking to see how much detail is appropriate and I’ve decided after reading these stories, I want to say and express everything.

We look forward to hearing more from Jill!

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12 Responses

  1. profxm says:

    Wow, Jill! I’m so sorry.

    Thank you for sharing. You’re not alone. Mormonism has negatively affected thousands of lives, as have other religions and other emotional and physically abusive relationships that are not related to religion (the abuse is just harder to justify without religion).

    It’s stories like these that continue to inspire me to do the work I do.

  2. Jill, thank you for the reminder of how dangerous fundamentalism can be. I would be pretty angry if Mormon leaders kept tossing me to the lions like that. I hope you’re happier now.

  3. Andrew S says:

    Jill, thank you so much for posting your story…it sent chills down my spine. It really gets to me because I know that all the pain…you can never really rewind and will it all away. And then I realize that many others face these same challenges, and the church often does little but reinforce the cycle of pain.

    I’m at a loss for words, since I know my life has seen nothing in comparison to yours. I don’t know if I would’ve been as strong as you have been. I wish you the best as you move on with your life.

  4. chanson says:

    I’m at a loss for words, since I know my life has seen nothing in comparison to yours.

    My personal experience was nowhere near this, but I’ve read enough accounts of leaving Mormonism that I wouldn’t say this story is totally off the charts. I’ve read many other accounts from people whose family life included real abuse and mental illness, and — while Mormons will cry “If so-and-so was mentally ill, that can’t be blamed on the church!” — but in each case the church doesn’t seem to help much either. The church’s role seems to fall on a spectrum between neutral and helping the abuser justify his abuse.

    That’s why I picked that one sentence out of this story as the title. Mormonism is great for people who happen to be successful and make the church look good. If you don’t fall into that category, well, good luck to you. And that whole scene with the girls making catty remarks that the other girl could hear in church — that part was pretty familiar, as you might guess if you read Young Women’s or Youth Conference. Personally, I was about halfway between the trendy popular girls and the poor girl who got buried under a ton of catty crap…

  5. Chris Smith says:

    Thank you so much for sharing. No one should ever have to go through the things you went through. It is a testament to your inner strength that you turned out so well.

  6. INTJ Mom says:

    Hi Jill, thanx for sharing your story. I can relate somewhat to your exasperation of being fed back to the lions. I’m glad you got out and I hope your life is going much better now.

  7. Jill says:

    Thank you everyone for taking time to read this! Yes, my life is great! I’m still a poor college student living in Cedar City and working full time, but I love who I am now, I’m confident and love who I am.

    I think that because of what I lived through, I feel that I can overcome anything life throws my way, because I know that if I can through that, I can live through anything!

    I just hope that the word can spread so that anyone else living through what I did can find their own hope and know that there is another way. I hope to graduate at the top of my class and make enough money to support my loved ones and create enough media to spread truth to everyone.

  8. MoHoHawaii says:

    Thanks for posting your story. I’m so glad you were able to charge of your life and move in a positive direction. Good luck to you!

  9. Ziff says:

    in each case the church doesn’t seem to help much either. The church’s role seems to fall on a spectrum between neutral and helping the abuser justify his abuse.

    Great point, chanson.

    Good luck, Jill.

  10. Hellmut says:

    Thank you for sharing your story, Jill.

    Here is where the rubber hits the road. Jill’s mother knew what she needed to do: get out. But when she had gathered the courage, which is a big deal for an abused woman, the bishop dissuaded her.

    That’s why it is a Mormon problem. It may not be entirely a Mormon problem but it could easily be less of a Mormon problem.

  11. aerin says:

    Thanks Jill for your story and to chanson for posting. You would think this type of thing would be uncommon but I think it’s much more common than some in the LDS leadership in SLC would like to admit.

    People like Jill’s family fell through the cracks – the truth is that the cracks can get pretty wide. When you have individual members teaching classes (who may or may not be inspired) and may teach sexism or racism (because that is their understanding of the gospel) – and then have bishopric who aren’t trained in counseling or reporting/recognizing abuse…and yes, I did hear a lot of “wacky” doctrines from teachers in sunday school and young women. Then,I met quite a few ward members who would preach one thing and live their own lives differently.

    FWIW – my ward growing up also had a lot of have’s and have not’s. Turns out the ward boundaries included some of the wealthiest and poorest suburbs.

    One would like to think that the daughter of a surgeon and the daughter of a sometimes employed bartender (other ward members, not my family) would have more in common – but sometimes it didn’t turn out that way. That socio-economic boundary was very clear. The ward boundaries were moved a few years after I left – so from what I hear, the differences are no longer so obvious.

  12. chanson says:

    p.s. to all:

    I just remembered which earlier story this one most reminds me of, it’s INTJ Mom’s story. She didn’t post it directly to MSP, but we discussed it here.

    Unfortunately, the links to the actual story are all dead. I don’t know whether she took it down on purpose or whether it’s just a problem with Live Journal, but INTJ Mom is a regular commenter here and on my blog, so maybe she’ll post her story for us again…

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