Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Losing and finding my religion. Kinda.

Part one, a child's view:

I was born and raised LDS, when Mormonism was far from mainstream.  My parents were church goers, but I know before I was born, they had parties involving drinking wine and friends who smoked.  I know this because one of my brothers ate an ashtray full of ciggie butts and had to be taken to the hospital.  That ended that, I guess.

I recall not wanting to be baptized, the full immersion scared me.  I got double dunked when my foot flew out of the water.  The bishop asked me questions, I parroted the answers.  Even at eight years old I knew I could not say no, although supposedly I had the choice.  I did not and I knew it then.

I did like Primary, I memorized scripture like a champ. Didn't always make sense, and I forgot them as soon as I'd recited them.  I dutifully learned to cross stitch and knit and crochet.  I earn my green felt collar filled with rhinestones.  Well if this was getting into heaven, I had that part down pat.  Could it be this easy?  Uh, no.

We moved a lot, being a Navy family.  The church was always there as a safety net, but I did not feel safe.  There were mean girls, always mean girls.  I never could make the connection between Love Thy Neighbor and mean girls at church.  Jesus was lying to me, wasn't he?

And the whole Lammanite thing.  That didn't seem fair, did it?  Why would God be mean to a whole tribe?  I didn't know the words for racism, even with the news about civil rights surrounding me, but going over my head.  Was God a mean kid too?

I spent a summer with an LDS family while mom visited dad at the ports in Europe and the Med.  More praying than I was used to.  Had to give a talk in church against my will.  Had to babysit the younger sister, the toddler. I didn't like it much.  I discovered I didn't like holding the baby when the mom needed her hands free.  I did not like surrendering my childhood to this woman, to being questioned about how did I like being a little mommy?  I did not like it, I resented it.  I was the baby girl, not this puling thing thrust into my life.  I did not take to the brainwashing very well at all.

We traveled, I saw many cathedrals, many churches, shrines and temples.  I was taught to be respectful of these religions.  I put a lace cover on my head to go into some of these churches.   I took off my shoes in Japan, I rang the bells and clapped my hands and bowed my head.  But I was told my religion was the only right one.  I was confused.  How could so many people be going to hell?  They were good people, just different.  How could one religion have a lock on truth?  It didn't seem fair.

I had a glass of champagne on my 14th birthday in Nice.  I did not drop dead.

When I was 14 or 15, back in Utah, in Mutual, Wednesday evenings, we were told the lesson was Preparing for Our Future.  Boys and girls were in different classes in Young Adults, of course.  Always.  I was nervous, but expectant.  I knew I did not want to be a teacher or a nurse, but couldn't imagine what else a woman could do for a living, what other promises were in store for my life.  Was I good enough for college? What would I study?  Well, none of that mattered.  The entire hour or so was dedicated to staying pure and preparing ourselves for temple marriage, to be fulfilled by bringing more souls to the church by having children, by attaining salvation through the calling to priesthood of our husbands.  Even at fourteen, I smelled a rat.  A big stinking, lying rat.  I wanted something different, something more.  Was there nothing else for me?

We moved to Iran.  I was really cut off from regular church.  No sacrament, and Family Home Evening didn't really happen.  I was allowed to go to Midnight Mass with a Catholic friend.   I wore a chador to visit a mosque.  I watched the five daily prayers, we shopped at the kosher Jewish markets.  There were 40 nationalities at the school I attended.  I drank my first beer and got drunk on Russian vodka.  Lightning didn't strike me dead.  I learned the thrill of profanity.  I learned I had sexual feelings, although pretty much for myself only at that time.  I did not drop dead when I touched myself.  I rather liked it.  

I moved back to Utah, to live with my aunt and all her many kids.  I was forced to go back to church every week.  The sermons rang hollow.  God didn't care what I did in the privacy of my room.  My cousins were smoking dope, no one caught them.  I tried it too, didn't like it, probably because I had asthma and didn't know it.  I learned to ditch school.  I learned that my new friends were having sex, even getting married in secret.  Jesus seemed a long way away from everyday life. I was set up with a boyfriend because a single girl needed a man.  I liked him, but he wanted to get married and I was only 17.  I learned how to make out with him, but he didn't want to go all the way unless we were married.  He didn't want "to turn me into a ball freak".  Really?   

Church with a hangover was a joke.  My brother moved in.  I learned to drop acid, although not often and only quarter tabs. That I liked, a rare and mystical sacrament. I learned I did not like pills.  I broke up with my boyfriend and learned sex was overrated from a selfish, manipulative young man who abused me and forced me into situations I thought I couldn't control.  Sex became so overrated it didn't matter if I had it or not.  I read underground comix.  I went to racy movies.  The Mormon girls I was forced to associate with were mean girls, even though they didn't know how mean they were being to me, even the two who were nicer than the rest.  I had very few friends, the kids I'd hung with at Ben Lomond High School all were moving on and lived on the other side of town.  I didn't like anyone at Ogden High except for a handful of girls, and the gay guy in drama.  I had no idea he was gay, homosexuality wasn't completely on my radar yet.  Church became more and more of a joke.  I didn't believe in any of it, not God, not afterlife, nothing.   I'm not sure mom and dad noticed until I took off on my own out of the blue at age 18 to San Francisco.  

And there I found ... a lot of things.

To Be Continued.  


Honey said...

Can't wait for the next installment. I know how you feel about the Mormon women, I never fit in, ever. Even when I did everything "right." I guess we were always to odd balls and they knew it. They go through the motions of love everyone, but they do not.

archersangel said...

very interesting.

catintheol'ladyrainhat said...

This is a great read, and fascinating stuff. I love learning about people's journeys through life. This one especially resonated for me because of my own religious history (same-same, only different). And you write it all so beautifully! I, too, am looking forward to the next installment.