Sunday, December 18, 2011

Sealings, Polygamy, and Other Things that Make Me Want to Cry

Tonight, based on my current understanding of things, I feel like I have two options: Either accept that God is sexist, or accept that the LDS church is not true.

As of tonight, I do not believe that God is sexist.

I do not believe that anyone will practice polygamy in heaven (whatever that is). I think the concept is sick, and the fact that no one seems to know whether or not it is actual current doctrine is kind of disturbing. Until it is actually refuted by the church, however, I will believe that it is considered doctrine but the church won't admit it (because let's be honest, they'd be stupid to do so).

According to the CHI via the only source I know of (a friend on Facebook; since, of course, the church thinks it's okay to keep its policies secret from members): "The current policy is that a sister may only be sealed to one husband during her life. Should she be married more than once, she may be sealed to all her husbands, but only after she and all the husbands have died. This is an improvement from the past where even after death we would only seal a woman to her first husband." While men are, of course, allowed to be sealed to whomever the eff they please, even if their former wives are still alive. I cannot think of anything that would make me okay with this disparity.

Though I don't know the actual words, I know that temple sealings involve women covenanting to obey their husbands. Unless husbands also covenant to obey their wives, I think that is bull. I also know that there's crap about women telling their husbands their new names, but never being allowed to know their husbands' names themselves. I've tried for eight years now, and I still cannot think of anything that makes this acceptable to me.

I think I could handle it if we were just talking about Mormon culture. The patriarchal system, women being denied the priesthood, the constant denigration and suppression. It's horrible and painful and humiliating, but I could live with it knowing that it's because of mortal, fallible men who were born in the freaking 30s and 40s for crying out loud. Yeah, it kind of makes sense that they still believe a woman's "place" is at home. I can ignore that, just like I ignore the emails forwarded from my beloved grandmother in which she talks about how much she loves learning things from Glenn Beck.

But at this moment I am finding it impossible to believe that God is directing a church that places so much emphasis on ordinances and denies women equal access to them.

I have not been feeling fantastic tonight, so this is probably not the best time to be thinking about these things. I was already really tired when I got online a couple hours ago, and then I found out that I accidentally offended the crap out of someone I don't even know, and I was feeling so bad I just sort of crumbled. I cried for about fifteen minutes, feeling terrible and like I'd embarrassed myself in front of the new community I already depend on so much. Then I actually felt kind of indignant, for reasons that I won't go into because I don't feel like writing out the whole story. And then I started reading an ongoing conversation about polygamy.

Not much later I ended up here, writing this. Maybe I'll feel better in the morning, or in a couple days, I don't know. Right now I am feeling utterly betrayed and totally lost. I read a woman's experience with the temple sealing and just felt nauseated the entire time. My entire family on my dad's side is LDS, and has been for generations going back to Emma Smith. How is it possible that they've all gone through that same thing? How can they all be a part of this? I feel so weird thinking about all the people I love who've done it--my parents, my best friends from college, aunts and uncles I love dearly, countless cousins, my little sister...

The worst thing is that I really don't want to be having these thoughts. I really, really don't want to finally decide that I don't believe it. This is all I've known my entire life. I don't want to be one of the people I always heard about growing up. I don't want this, I don't, I don't.

It's probably time to go to sleep and stop thinking about this for a while. I'm hoping desperately that things will look better tomorrow.


  1. Like LovelyLauren, I too had to give up the idea of trying to believe everything while still choosing to believe in Christ and go to church. I think that it is important to see the difference. I still have moments that I want to scream and yell and run away. But with my entire soul I believe that this is NOT what God wants. That He wants the truth to be told and that it breaks His heart when you cry. That God is a Feminist. That change will happen.

    I think I also had to let go of the idea that its either true or not. That leaders have and will continue to make mistakes. That the idea that the church is perfect and always receives all revelation directly from God is a very dangerous position that the church chose to take. I think it makes changes painfully slow and hinders the development of the members. But its not God's plan. The polygamy thing is crap and totally bogus in my opinion. I think my best argument is that if God wanted it to increase population than why when he created Adam and Eve was it only two people. If there has ever been a need to increase population rapidly then I think that may have been the time.

    I know that God loves me and that He loves you. I want to tell you that the way gender is addressed in the church is not what God wants that God want you to seek for truth and to feel the Holy Ghost and have a personal relationship with Christ. That all the crud is not essential. And hold on, it will change, its changing its just so so slow. Also you should read Jesus was a Feminist. Its quite good and very faith promoting I thought.

  2. Sounds like you had a pretty awful weekend. I hope things are looking up for you by now. I'm sorry things are hard. I think you are being brave by looking at the difficult issues. The Buddhist conception of suffering helped me through the most difficult aspects of my own crisis. It is basically this: while pain is an inevitable part of life, it is resistance to pain that causes profound suffering; Let your pain be your teacher.
    Unlike Lauren and Jessica, my choice was/is to leave. It is the most difficult thing I have done in my entire life, and I'm still extricating my mind and heart from the tentacles of some the most harmful aspects of church culture and doctrine. I think I could have put up with my cultural misgivings for a good while yet, but when I realized that some of the core doctrines were poisonous to my spirit, I had to chart a new path.

    Two books that have helped me:
    The Stages of Faith by James Fowler - helped me realize that a crisis of faith is a stage of development. Like you, my negative feelings were unintentional and uninvited, but I felt I couldn't have integrity of faith without looking at all of it. Many, many people of faith never grapple with the hard stuff and they live perfectly happy, fulfilling lives - but for me that would have been an inauthentic faith.
    The second book is called The Mindful Path to Self-Compassion. It teaches mindfulness in a step-by-step manner; I cannot express how much this has helped me get through. I'm getting ready to read it again.

    Love you, sis. You're going get through this.

  3. The rest of the weekend was thankfully pretty peaceful--my family was all here visiting, so there were lots of distractions and playing with adorable nieces--it was just Saturday night/Sunday morning that was really rough for some reason. This happens occasionally, though I suspect that this time may have been at least partially because of the fact that I missed taking my 5-htp a couple days before. In any case, all three of you, thanks for your supportive comments. Lindsay and Jessica, I'll definitely be looking up the books you've mentioned (I've meant to read Jesus Was a Feminist for a while, and the other two sound lovely).

    I think my problem is that right now, I'm kind of torn between the Lauren/Jessica approach and the Lindsay approach. Maybe I'm just too shortsighted right now, but I can't see myself leaving, and there's a big part of me that really doesn't want to leave; I really don't know why, but I want to be part of the group that stays even though they don't believe, or only believe partially. Maybe it's because Mormon-ness is completely central to my family; not just my immediate family, but my entire family on my dad's side (back to Emma Smith) and about half of my mom's side (the half I knew growing up). I went to BYU, so all of my good friends from college are LDS. My husband's family is entirely LDS. There is only one tiny corner of my life that is not solidly Mormon, and that's the few friends my husband and I have where we live. Can I really give all that up?

    The other side of the problem is that, unlike Jessica and Lauren, I don't know if I can accept that the church can be so wrong and still be right (or right enough to be worth all the garbage that comes with it). "Basically, I made my religion about me instead of the institution." I do really like that, Lauren. I just read yesterday, somewhere in the Bloggernacle, someone saying that if you took away all the cultural and corporatized things about the church, you'd basically be left with people reading The Book of Mormon (remembered--it was here). And I think that is one of the possibilities for where I will end up: essentially rejecting all of the crappy cultural crap and taking only the very, very, very basics.

    Of course, for that to work I would have to have a testimony of The Book of Mormon... And that's not something I have right now. Even when I was growing up Molly Mormon, no matter how hard I tried, I could never muster as much interest for it as I could the Bible. So we'll have to see where that goes.

  4. I would never try to sway you either way; just know that there are at least two paths, probably as many paths as there are people who wonder/wander. If one doesn't work, try the another. Your decision needn't be permanent.
    I started out simply taking a break from church attendance - something I had never done (I know that sounds like the slippery slope argument, but clearly I don't see it that way). I had never purposely missed church - I attended with my husband on our honeymoon; we attended when we were camping for the weekend. You get the idea. I needed a break in March when I wanted to die every time I went to church, and then it took me half the week to recover. In order to resolve the cognitive dissonance I tried on a lot of meanings, mixed what was said and taught with the nuances that felt right to me, and was unable to make it work. And I tried like hell - because of what church has/had meant to me and because of the huge social consequences. And I'm not saying I've left forever, though it's hard to imagine returning - and if I do, it will absolutely be on my own terms (props to you, Lauren and Jessica) - but I try my best to be open to truth wherever it may be found. If that takes me back someday to the faith tradition I was raised in, so be it.

  5. I would like to hear your thoughts on being excluded from your sister's wedding. To my knowledge, no other religion excludes family members from weddings. I'm not LDS. My only experience with being excluded from a temple wedding was at my BIL's sealing. It was a sad day for my husband and his "unworthy" siblings knowing that they were not welcome to witness the beginning of his married life. My FIL was so depressed about this that he didn't show up to wait outside the temple. He came later to the reception. How is this the "family church" ? - A cousin-in-law in Yuma :)

  6. Ugh, I know. And I can only imagine how sad your BIL felt that only his mom was "worthy" to be there. It's so messed up.

    Unfortunately I wasn't at all bothered by being excluded from my sister's wedding, because at the time I thought it completely natural. (Isn't that sad?) I'll tell you what did bother me, though--when my best friend from college got married last year, and she didn't even invite me to wait outside the temple, which I absolutely would have done. I haven't asked, so I don't know what her reasoning was; I just know that all the other bridesmaids and our mutual close friends were there because they're endowed, and since I'm the only one who isn't, I wasn't invited. That hurt.

    I now think it's horrible to exclude family members from weddings. I think weddings should be one event, and then if you want to get sealed in the temple it should be done separately. Why does the church discourage this by making you wait a year if you get married civilly first, as though they're punishing you for making a bad choice? I read a blog post about this that I thought was very good, if too long.

    P.S. Thanks for commenting. :)

  7. I don't think staying is aways the right choice and sometimes I wonder why I stay. Knowing what I know it makes it hard to stay. I just feel like I have to seek truth and that is what I do. I really like your blog and the title. Its very true. We went to visit family over the holidays out of utah. And it was so nice to be around good people who believed differently. So we are planning to move out of utah. I think its easier for me since if I did leave no one would care in my family. I enjoy reading buddism theology and other ideas on truth. Its amazing how when anyone seeks truth and plans to live it I believe they will find it.

  8. Isn't the idea of living outside of Utah so liberating? It makes me a little sad that we're planning on moving back to Utah soon... But I'm doing okay with it because I know that 1) it will be temporary (this is really only for the sake of getting Utah out of my husband's system because he misses his home), and 2) there are a lot of Feminist Mormon Housewives in Utah, and I'll have much better access to Counterpoint and other heterodox Mormon enterprises.

    There's definitely a part of me that wants to cut ties and do that--"seek truth"--in places where you don't have to take so much damaging garbage along with the good. (Which would essentially mean eschewing organized religion altogether and just going it solo.) And I don't know; that part of me might be so small now only because it's been so short a time since I first realized that leaving was even a possibility... That might be a part that's going to grow.

    For now, there's a bigger part of me that wants to stay a part of the culture, but not really the religion. Which I know is completely backward, since it's the culture that's so poisonous. But I guess I mean more of the family culture, not the actual Mormon culture; like, maybe still calling myself Mormon, so that I can still fit in with my Mormon family, but basically just taking only what I want and leaving the rest.

    I suppose I don't even know if that would work though... Would that be any better for my family? Would they judge me any less? Would they actually prefer me to leave because then at least I wouldn't be giving Mormons a bad name? I'd like to think that I'd be giving Mormons a better name, actually, by focusing on real Christian principles and not the idiotic minutiae of obsessive Mormon life... but I'm not holding my breath that they'd be able to see it that way. :)

  9. “One's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions.” - Oliver Wendell Holmes

    Accept the journey that you are are - denying your feelings creates angst, negativity and internal conflict. Just prepared for the reality that some people can only handle the "you" they've defined.

  10. LovelyLauren Dec 18, 2011 12:16 PM

    I can honestly say that I've been in the exact same place and I'm struggling to find the right words. I don't think God is sexist either, but I also don't think the church isn't true. I had to find a place in the church where I could openly reject certain principles without rejecting the rest of it. It is no longer all or nothing for me and I realized that it didn't have to be. I don't have to accept polygamy in order to take the sacrament every week. I don't have to return to the temple or stay home with my children to feel the Atonement in my life every day. I had to go back to the basics and focus on what made the church worth staying in, not what made it worth leaving.

    Basically, I made my religion about me instead of the institution. I accept what the church brings forward and I take what works for me and leave the rest. I know there are Mormons out there who have a problem with this attitude, but at this point, screw them. I gave myself permission not to care what judgments others make about my religion.

    I'll also add that you shouldn't always make snap judgments in your darker moments. The times where I struggled with the church the most was when I was clinically depressed. I was so sad and overwhelmed that I couldn't even access the
    good things anymore.

    The endowment was very hard for me, but I actually loved my sealing and think it's a beautiful ordinance that talks about what you can create with your husband forever. It's so much more intimate than other marriage ceremonies and I loved kneeling across from my husband while blessings were poured on both of us, should we remain worthy of them. I actually found it empowering as a women. I think marriages can often end up being about the family more than the couple and I felt so close to my husband during our sealing. It was short, so be sure, but it was really lovely. I've actually gone back twice to do sealings again and reflect on the meaning of my own. The more I've gone back, the more I've healed myself and been able to appreciate what the temple has to offer me, even if that doesn't include the endowment.

    Hope you're feeling better today. Maybe I said something that helped a little. Or not. :)