Tuesday, February 17, 2015

My Shelf. . . It Was Just Too Heavy

(If you don't know what I mean when I say "my shelf," then please read this post so you understand what I'm talking about here.  Thanks)

I was "born in the covenant."  My life began in a diverse city.  None of my early life friends were Mormon.  They were all normal, kind people.  But of course we needed to "save them."  My first missionary experience was in  Grade One.  I gave my teacher a Book of Mormon.  In Grade Two, I gave my teacher a Book of Mormon and she attended my baptism.  She is still the only face I can remember from that day; looking up at her from the font.  I'm sure I gave my Grade Three and Four teachers the same gift.  It was right around this time that I learned that my Uncle is gay.  I knew that being gay was "not something that we did," but I knew he wasn't a bad person and I loved him.  LGBT ISSUES - placed on my shelf.

In the summer after Grade four, we moved out of the big city to a small Mormon town.  Here I learned that those who were different were dangerous.  (I was the dangerous outsider.)  Don't get me wrong, I had plenty of friends, but I was the crazy city girl influencing everyone's kids towards evil.  At age 10, I didn't even know what evil was.  Except for what I was told at church.

Speaking of church, it was at church in this little town where I learned about Black vs. White OR Dark vs. Light skin.  This was portrayed in a lesson at church with water, pepper, and salt.  The salt being the good that gets rid of the bad.  The teacher specifically referenced color of skin to the lesson.  Keep in mind, that here in this area, the Natives did not get along with the white people.  (This is a generalization, I know.  I'm sure there are some people that like each other just fine.  But this is my 12-yr-old memory.)  I got along fine with the Natives, though.  This only added fuel to the fire of evil influence that was me.  Over half of my friends were Natives.  RACISM - added to my shelf.

At 12, we moved again.  Back to city life; well suburban life anyway.  This is what is known as "Happy Valley."  Here the culture was different.  When I first got here, I remember thinking, "these people are weird,"  but not really able to place what the weirdness was.  Everyone did the same activities.  Everyone had the same crafty home decor.  Everyone went to the same church.  Everyone had all the same things to talk about.  There also seemed to be no room for error.  ASSIMILATION - placed on my shelf.

Here is where I learned that boys and girls were different.  It's not okay for a girl to want to be into sports and the outdoors; she is supposed to craft, cook, be quiet and have babies.  Boys can play, get dirty, be loud, and have fun.  GENDER ROLES- shelved.

Then there was the difference in activities.  Boys could go on trips, go boating, fishing, camping, shooting, skiing, and a whole slew of other expensive activities, while the girls had to be frugal and go to a leaders home to make crepes, or write out the characteristics they require from their future husbands.  FUNDING YWs vs YMs - on my shelf.

Boys taught to prepare for, get, and use the Priesthood.  The Power of God.  Girls get nothing.  INEQUALITY -shelved.

Girls taught that we control the thoughts of boys and men.  We are to blame for the things that happen to us if we aren't dressed "modestly."  Boys taught that it's the girls fault they think the way they do.  RAPE CULTURE - shelved.

Girls taught their divine role is to be a wife and mother in Zion.  Boys taught nothing about Fatherhood or being a good husband, only about Scouts.  OH, and Priesthood.  DIVINE ROLES - shelved.

As I grew up in Mormon-ville and filled my days with school and extra curricular activities,  I didn't have much to worry about.  We were all Mormons.  Except for my ONE friend.  But we hardly saw each other.  We participated in different activities.  Someone else could handle that missionary opportunity.  EVERY MEMBER ALWAYS A MISSIONARY - shelved.

It was in High School that receiving personal revelation was stressed in my Seminary classes.  This was something I could count happening to me on only one hand.  I didn't feel like direct revelation was mine to possess.  I mean, who can really tell the difference between personal feelings and "The Spirit" anyway?  I couldn't.  And no one could explain this to me.  SPIRITUAL CONFIRMATIONS - shelved.

I attended BYU-Idaho.  I was there the first year it was an official BYU school.  Now, if I thought that "Happy Valley" was crazy, then BYU-Idaho was a whole new world of ridiculous.  However, I fit in just fine.  I could adjust to the rules that I signed up for.  (literally signed for)  College is supposed to be an exploration time.  A time to find yourself, try new things, do something stupid, and come out of it alive and better because of your experiences.  That's not what happens in Rexburg, ID.  No finding yourself.  You do as you're told.  No trying new things.  No experimentation.  No Sandals.  Doing something stupid gets you expelled or worse, excommunicated.  This is a control situation.  Know the rules, do them, go to class, and you'll graduate.

I learned here that this was no ordinary school.  The underlying religious messages weren't so discrete.  I didn't have ONE class that didn't mention marriage.  This was the real purpose for college, to get married.  Not to improve my education or develop my ability to think for myself.    MARRIAGE.  That's it.  Find the man.  Capture the man.  Make babies.  Support the man.  Endure to the end.  DIVINE ROLES - again, placed on the shelf.

Well, I didn't meet someone who could provide for me.  Return Missionaries (RMs) were weird.  I steered clear.  Just my degree for me, please.  But just because the boys were weird doesn't mean I would be weird if I went.  I could be a normal missionary.  So, I decided to go.  Everyone was supportive.  I was called to the Virginia Richmond Mission.

The Missionary Training Center (MTC) was more strict than BYU-Idaho.  However, I signed up for this, again.  In the MTC, I learned that this was not a place for questions and answers.  This was a place for "tough love" and assimilation.  ONLY ONE WAY - thrown on the shelf.

Leaving the MTC.  Hearing a voice tell me not to go.  Calling home and having my Dad (without me telling him what I heard) said, "no turning back now."  So, I went.  PERSONAL REVELATION - hanging over the side of my very full shelf.

The Mission Field.  The place where all unbelievers dwell.  Where they are ripe and all ready to harvest.  Where my mission president didn't think highly of Sister Missionaries, and he didn't feel I had any personal revelatory abilities, and disregarded every feeling I had.  Including me knowing there was a death coming in my family WEEKS before it happened.  This is where I learned that in the political realm of the church, women didn't matter.  Our voices don't matter.  Our presence doesn't matter.  Our opinions don't matter.  (If you want to read the whole story, you can find it here.)  INEQUALITY - hanging from personal revelation.  DISRESPECT - hanging from inequality.  My shelf, getting splinters from the weight.

I came home.  EARLY.  No one said anything.  No one asked questions.  No one made eye contact.  No one knew why I came home.  However, the inability to perform, or depression, or rule breaker lingers in the air.  But no one asks me.  My parents didn't know why.  My stake president didn't even know why I came home.  All he had was a note in my file that said I was being released because of medical reasons. Who knew that choosing to come home was A MEDICAL PROBLEM?  There you have it folks, I CHOSE to come home.

After I came home, I dated, got married, finished school and went to work.  After a few years, I had kids.  During this time of me being pregnant and at home I had a chance to experience multiple male chauvinistic leaders, develop a hatred to the rhetoric that exists in Relief Society, and read EVERYTHING I could find about my beloved church's involvement with Prop 8 in California and earlier in Hawaii, and the "therapy" used to treat those people who are burdened with the struggle of "Same Sex Attraction."


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