Sunday, September 9, 2012

Mormon Girl/ Atheist Girl

As most of you probably know, I was raised Mormon. And now I'm a half-queer, liberal atheist. So, some things have changed.

Anyway, my history is a tangled knot of complicatedness which forms my very clear ideas about my life and I'm sure someone finds that interesting. At the very least, I always find that people really like it that I'm completely open and honest about my religious upbringing, mostly because Mormons are a secretive bunch and especially now that Bishop Richie Rich is running for president.

With regards to the latter, I always find myself bringing up my background as a way to provide my own context and legitimate knowledge and also because I'd rather we argue the facts and stop talking about magic underwear and secret temple orgies where they slaughter unicorns. At least one part of that is made up. Guess which! (Pst! It's not the unicorns.)

A couple of my friends have expressed the idea that I should write a book on my story, I guess a Mormon girl turned atheist is a unique one? I'd guess it's probably more common than you'd think. It's just no one talks about it. Well, this got me thinking that I do want to talk about it. I want to start writing my story and maybe that turns into a book and maybe it's just a cathartic experience and maybe someone gets some insight into a huge American institution which outsiders still find totally mysterious and weird.

Of course to me, Mormons are still like my dorky big sister. I get to make fun of them and crack jokes about lime jello and CTR rings. But what I don't want to come out of this are the people who just want to make fun of Mormons. Ask me any questions you want. Open up dialog. Criticize what you honestly don't agree with. But I won't tolerate any cruel and attacking comments.

You probably don't know that I get attacking comments already on this blog, mostly because I just delete them. I've also been considering not allowing anonymous comments anymore. To sum up, be nice. It won't hurt you to just be nice.

Here's the first chapter of my story:

Neither of my parents were raised Mormon.

My mom was actually raised Catholic and, until I studied religions in college, my only impressions of the Catholic church were my mom's, which were completely overblown and held on a higher pedestal than any other Catholic I've ever met. This is because whatever my mom does, she does with gusto. She thought the nuns were like the coolest women every to walk the planet and totally wanted to be one. When she was thinking about being baptized into the Mormon church at 19, she evidently went to confession every day for it. But that should explain the kind of Mormon she was. I say was because I'm pretty sure she doesn't leave the house anymore.

My dad, on the other hand, he just kind of goes with the flow. I don't know that he was raised any religion. When my grandma died, she had some kind of Christian funeral, but fuck if I know if it was Methodist or Lutheran or whatever. I'm pretty sure she never went to a church when she was alive. And my grandpa was an abusive alcoholic. My dad started smoking at like 12 or something and he's never had any intention of quitting whatsoever and he'll probably be like George Burns and smoke until he dies at the age of 157. He also has a large cup of coffee every single day, no matter if it's 120 degrees outside, which it gets damn close to where he lives in the desert.

Needless to say, he wasn't exactly a model Mormon. I wouldn't say he was "Jack" Mormon, because he gave up drinking and was baptized when they adopted me in 1980. But he was just bad enough to never have a temple recommend or receive certain levels of the priesthood (this is an area I actually don't have much of a memory about, being a girl I guess). But he has a calling as the choir director and so he goes every week and conducts the music. I also imagine that he still sleeps on the stand, his head bobbing around shamelessly, something I found mortifying as a young teen.

So, no, my parents weren't married in the temple and never got sealed, a fact which my mom tried to make him feel guilty about every single damn day. She did eventually go to the temple on her own, but that was before she was a prescription drug addict.

At this point, I guess I explain why some people go to the temple and some don't. But I think I'll leave that for another day, because I want to stick to my childhood for now.

My parents' marriage, that one tiny detail, was enough to set me enough apart from the rest of the Mormon kids, enough to tell me I just wasn't quite good enough, just didn't "partake in the same blessings." Which taught me pretty early on that there are hierarchies within this culture and, if you start at the bottom, you have to struggle to fit in. I was also an only child, something you can imagine is very odd for Mormons. My best friend, who I met when I was like 14, also came from a different family model and she also felt the sting of being different in the Mormon church.

I can't tell you how many times I was told how special I was. But I didn't want to be special; I wanted to fit in. I never would, so instead I made up for it by, at first, trying to be perfect. Then, when it was clear I wouldn't be perfect (for anyone, but especially my mother), I became a rebel, I got my own ideas and opinions, I questioned everything, and, most of all, I made people laugh. People tend to be less on guard and less disapproving when you're making them laugh. And I think my spunk bought me time to be rebellious and wild while I was questioning everything I'd been told. I really did get away with so much.

But more on that later.

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