In 1978 my parents made a personal and spiritual commitment when, as a family, we joined the Mormon church. At the age of seven, I was not afforded the opportunity to make this decision myself. As a result, I experienced visits by Missionaries, Relief Society women, my personal baptism and confirmation and, later, experienced the “sealing” of our family in the Mormon temple. Even after experiencing all of this, my view of the Mormon church has forever been distorted by the events which transpired in the few years following our family commitment.
Raised in a home with an abusive father, I am strong believer that the Mormon Missionaries who showed up at our home, in New Jersey, in 1978 were sent by the grace of God. For my mother, joining the Mormon church, in my opinion, was a last effort to improve the quality of life for our family. With a rich and committed belief in family, I feel, it was my mother’s hope that the beliefs of the Mormon church would instill value and commitment into my abusive father and, hopefully, improve the life of both myself and my siblings.
Unfortunately, in the few years following our joining of the Mormon church, our family life persisted in deterioration. With physical, verbal and emotional abuse, even the Mormon teachings were not strong enough to soften the heart of my father.
In the early 80s, after moving to Washington, DC, my parents separated and, subsequently, divorced. As an adult, I recall Mormon church members making the weekly trip to my home to pick me up so that I could attend church and continue to interact with young women my own age. Then, age the age of 12, I experienced a significant turning point.
Following a sacrament meeting, I sat in a pew of the chapel reading my Book of Mormon. As I sat quietly, struggling with my quickly deteriorating home life, I overheard a female member of the church begin to discuss the intimate details of our family life with another family member. Not only was I shocked to over hear the haphazard discussion of my personal life among church members I didn’t know, I was even more shocked to hear these women discuss the potential excommunication of my mother and father. As a child, I knew these women did not possess the authority to ex-communicate my parents but, even more significant, was the fact that this chapel, that I was considered my place of refuge from the deteriorating family home, was no longer a place I could come to rest my soul.
At the age of 12, I felt violated by the spiritual leaders I felt closest too and felt I no longer had a place of spiritual calmness. I made the decision to not return to the church after that time.
In the years following those events, my parents divorced and remarried. While neither was ex-communicated, my father chose to discontinue attending the church while my mother continued to persevere and continue her service to the Mormon church diligently. Through these years, my mother has been assertive in her approach that I return to the church. Going so far as to supply the church with my change of addresses, I have faced the reality that removing my name and my identity from the church is not possible. Wherever I go, the Mormon church members have found me and attempted to visit me at my home. As a result, I have continued to feel violated and have not found the spiritual or emotional influence to return to the church.
On two occasions, I have visited the Mormon church simply out of curiosity. I believe I am searching for my spiritual connection and want to provide the Mormon church members with my unbiased approach to rekindle my connection. However, with each visit to the church, I simply feel as if I don’t fit in. Not willing to practice the stringent lifestyle, I am simply concerned the members of the Mormon church will continue to be unacceptable of me and my family as they did in the early 1980s.
While the church has served millions of members, and improved lives of thousands, I am simply unwilling to subject myself nor my family to the open criticism of the Mormon church members who practice the stringent lifestyle without tolerance for those who stray from the teachings.