Hi, I'm Jim.
I enjoy food, art, glass-blowing, friends, meditation, and enjoy partaking of what the Earth has to offer in herbs and drink. I'm a clinician, voice-over actor, artist, philosopher, teacher, and counselor. My spiritual path is now Druidic in a neopagan tradition, and love what the outdoors and the universe can teach me. I was a Mormon.
I had written a letter to a friend of mine who had heard I left the church. Since it describes well what happened, here we go:
I have been meaning for quite some time to relate to you the story of your folks' courage and incredible and loving fortitude. As time goes by, I don't want that story to be lost, so I've been working on this a little bit at a time.
There is a lot of back story to this that I won't bore you with but it was one of the most dreadful experiences I had gone through which ultimately led me to the point where I felt I had no choice but to resign from the church in order for the abuse to end.
A member of the church from Northridge, Fred Huckvale, and I have a history. Fred threw large young adult parties at his home, was extraordinarily wealthy, and we all kind of joked that his goal while on the earth was to become a General Authority. The running joke was that no one would date his daughters since he insisted on interviewing all their suitors, that they always keep a copy of the Book of Mormon in sight during dates, and a post-date debriefing. He was truly hard core ultra-orthodox LDS with an ego the size of Montana!
While I went to CSUN, I was the LDSSA President and also worked for the Church Education System. This is where Fred and I would not just get off on the wrong foot but sweep away the feet altogether! There was a seminary graduating class whose records I was auditing to make the final student list for graduation. We found that an entire year's seminary attendance records had gone missing. The CES director, Jim Fitch, had me call the parents asking if their son or daughter had attended all year and just give credit based on that. That was easy, fast, and wouldn't take long. That is, until I had to call the Huckvale's since one of their daughters was on that list. “How dare you insinuate that our daughter skipped class. Do you know who I am? Do you know what I can have done to you? Do you like being a member of the church? I'll have you fired!” was the response from Fred when I called their home. I simply asked the question again, “Did your daughter attend all year?” “I want your name. You do not treat a Huckvale in this manner.” Stunned at his arrogance, I quietly said, “Brother Huckvale, if you're not willing to answer, I will mark that your daughter did not attend and will not graduate seminary.” He blew up again, this time with profanity, and I hung up. I used my judgement and didn't want to punish his daughter for his attitude and marked she had attended and would graduate.
I suppose to cut off the Great Huck was a sin worse than, I don't know, apostasy, since he made a litany of phone calls, found out my name, called my bishop and stake president, as well as Brother Fitch from CES, and had people call the CES office wanting me fired. Brother Fitch told me to laugh it off, that I did my job and he had no intention of firing me. So began my time with The Great Huck.
Turn the clock ahead a decade. I had written a private letter to Salt Lake about my opposition to their involvement in the marriage equality issue in Hawai’i. I had spoken with my stake president about it, he told me that though he disagreed with me, I was well within my rights as a member to let Salt Lake know how I felt. The letter was sent, I heard nothing, and that was it.
Turn the clock ahead several more years. There is a new Canoga Park stake president, Fred Huckvale. Apparently, his predecessor had kept a copy of my letter in his files and Fred found it. Though by this time I had long since moved to West Los Angeles, and at this very time, I had found and purchased an investment property in West Hills to turnaround and sell. Apparently, word got out, Fred found out, and since the property was in his stake, without my knowledge or consent he had my church records moved from the Westwood 2nd ward into the West Hills ward, and immediately called a church court. He was charging me with apostasy and heresy for sending that letter years ago, even intimating in his letter that I would be excommunicated, which you’re not supposed to say. Stunned, I called my bishop and stake president and they spoke with Fred and decided not to get involved since my records had already moved. I felt betrayed since they didn’t call Fred on his actions. In fact, my stake president said, “We’re not getting into a fight over a membership record. He wants to excommunicate you, so if you want, we can work on your re-baptism.” Really? That “membership record” was me. Did my service to the ward and stake mean nothing? I had been a Branch President twice and had been through bishop's training, I knew this was violating the Handbook of Instruction and reminded both the bishop and stake president I had done nothing wrong, didn’t even remotely fit the definition of apostasy. They said they were sorry, but not to call them again. Wow. When I finally called Fred asking about why he would do this without even an interview and secretly moving my records, “Telling me how to be a stake president is another sure sign of your apostasy.” And it deteriorated from there.
I made some phone calls and within days, Salt Lake, actually the Legal department, instructed Fred to call off the court. Fred had even defied and refused direction from a General Authority, whom I had worked with on my mission and had spoken with, who counseled Fred to follow the policies and properly interview me. I had leaked to the press what Fred had done and it was an embarrassment to the church when contacted for comment. Fred did reluctantly call off the church court, but only for a time.
So much more ugly followed but here is where your folks came in.
A few weeks later, on a Saturday evening, I was at the property when the bishop of the West Hills ward, and your father, the Stake Patriarch, showed up at the house. Your dad was so taken back since the bishop had said they were going to visit a member, and it happened to be me! We chatted at length, reminiscing having known each other for many years, with your dad wondering if there was a special calling waiting since this was a personal visit from the bishop and Patriarch! Bishop Waldron didn't say much, and sort of fidgeted with some papers. It suddenly dawned on me what was happening. “Bishop, did someone give you a letter to give to me?” He nodded and handed me the envelope. I opened it and read that Fred had rescheduled the church court for that next Sunday morning. “Patriarch, I don't think the bishop has been completely honest with you about why you're here. He's soon going to ask you to sign a form that you were an official witness to the delivery of a notice for a church court being held for me, charging me with apostasy.” He turned white and stammered to the bishop, “You knew about this? Do you know this brother? Have you spoken with him? He is like another son to me. My family has known him for years. That you would involve me is, is...” and tears began to fall. Seeing your father cry made me want to punch the bishop in the neck for covering up why they were there.
The bishop said it was time to go and stood to leave. Your father said to the bishop, “Perhaps we could give this good brother a blessing.” He responded, “That wouldn't be a good idea.” Your father's jaw dropped but hugged me tight and said, “This is very wrong, my wife and I will be there for you at the court.” and the two of them left.
The next morning, I made some calls that the court was back on and the Legal department in Salt Lake called me again. Fred had breached all policy by letting his bruised ego get in the way. This is where it got ugly again. The Legal department said that they would have the court called off only if I signed a non-disclosure agreement about speaking to anyone about what had happened. Really? I knew that if I went public, that action, in and of itself, is an excommunicable offense, but I didn't want to sign their document which would silence forever what the church had done. They then threatened that if I did not sign the document I would be excommunicated immediately, and they dragged out the Celestial Boogey-man about the horrid things that would happen to me being thrown out of the church. They again demanded my signature. I was done. “Go ahead, excommunicate me and I will go to the press; don't and I may still go to the press, that's a chance you'll have to take. I’m done!” and hung up. My heart pounded as I looked at the phone wondering if it would ring again. It didn't. I had done nothing to deserve this. I had broken no rules, and here they wanted to sweep the huge mess they had made under the rug.
Well, the court never happened. I had my records moved back to the Westwood 2nd ward and after many days of prayer and fasting met with the bishop several weeks later. He and the stake president had done nothing to prevent Fred from perpetrating this kind of abuse, putting me through this nightmare. I quietly said, “I will never let the church do to me what it did while you, my ecclesiastic leaders, just stood by doing nothing. Take my name off the records, I resign.” Put a fork in me, I was done. He reluctantly put the paperwork through.
A sidebar, when the paperwork hit Salt Lake for my removal, the membership department contacted the Westwood bishop. There was something wrong with my records. Now I joined the church at 17, served a mission in Argentina at 19, and was, at the time of my resignation, a High Priest and temple worker. According to my records in Salt Lake, I was blessed as a baby, never baptized, but had been ordained, endowed and currently serving a mission in Japan. Some “Book of Life.” I had to give the bishop the dates, people and places of all my ordinances so they could be re-entered into the membership system, and then invalidated. That was it. I was no longer a member but carried with me nearly 25 years of church membership and culture. It was not an easy decision, but the abuse was horrid, and I would not allow myself to be subjected to that again. There was also now a good possibility of that happening, as by this time, I had decided to move from West Los Angeles to the West Hills house, and not sell it. I'd now be living in Fred's stake officially.
When Fred later found out I was allowed to resign rather than let him excommunicate me, he was furious. He wasn't done with me. He informed the members who were my neighbors that they were to have nothing to do with me, that as a filthy apostate (his words) I would ruin their testimonies and lead them down the path to destruction. To add some teeth to this, he informed those that held them that their temple recommends could be in jeopardy if they had contact with me. I found this out as Jerry and Sally Rosevear, who lived around the corner told me why they could not speak with me. Other members also reiterated Fred's instructions verbatim. In the time that followed, I cannot tell you how devastating it was to have Jerry and Sally cross the street when they were out walking if I happened to be in my front yard, smiling and waving a “hello!” To have members I had known for years turn their carts around in the grocery store was beyond anything I could have imagined. So, when Jeff Holland says the church doesn't shun, he's woefully misinformed or lying as Mormon culture does shun and Salt Lake allows it to happen. During their last talk with me, I remember Jerry Rosevear reminding me that, “Obedience is the first law of Heaven, and that Fred would be at fault for this not them.” Wow. What was so disheartening was that I relied on the panacea that, “The Lord knows the truth, and He'll see to it everything works out.” It didn't. Never could I imagine all this was happening from a church I had loved and served for so many years.
You'll notice I didn't mention your folks. They refused to follow the direction of the stake president. They felt it wasn't right to treat anyone with such animosity and found it appalling not to treat even the worst person with a modicum of Christ-like kindness. I did not want to put them in harm’s way with Fred, so we would meet at their favorite seafood restaurant over on Reseda or somewhere else where members wouldn't see us together. They would call me regularly and would risk a hug in the grocery store if we were there at the same time. I remember once at the store, your Mom in her demure way smiled and said, “I don’t care if anyone sees this, I love you,” before giving me a big hug. They were the epitome of what the Gospel and Christ teaches. They felt their defiance was justified and even when it came to the time they moved to Utah; we said our good-bye's away from their home. We somehow knew we'd not see each other again in this lifetime.
To have been forced into a “Dark night of the soul” was, at first, devastating. But it did teach me to stand on my own two feet spiritually. It would be years before I could pass the Canoga Park building and not feel intense anger. I had spent more than half my life in the church, and it took some time to find my spiritual place in the world. I had joined a friend at an Episcopal church where I found I could quietly tend to my spiritual wounds. I also spent weeks with the monks at a silent Benedictine Monastery in the mountains above Santa Barbara to help regain my spiritual footing. It was a godsend. I now follow a different spiritual path, but I am grateful for what those humble Episcopal souls did to help me regroup my spiritual life.
The last I heard from Fred was that next Easter. I received two letters in the mail the Saturday before Easter Sunday. One from Fred on church stationary, and another from the Episcopal Priest where I was attending church. I literally put those letters side by side. Fred's was the litany of the horrors that will befall apostates and heretics and since I numbered among them, that I was beyond redemption. The other letter spoke of Christ and the miracle of the Resurrection and living our lives worthy of that supreme sacrifice. Which Easter message do you think came from an inspired spiritual leader? How deep was the hate that Fred had to spew such venom even after I had left the church?
I had come to find out later that Fred had abused other members, who chose not to speak up, and just left. So sad to have hurt so many people in the “name of righteousness.” My heart aches for those people.
A few things before I wrap up this insanely long letter. I've never heard this from you or your husband, but it is so easy in Mormon culture to write off or ignore those who suffer from what I call Mormon BO -- as in the cultural use of the words “Bitter,” and “Offended.” It is condescending and so hurtful. Please don't ever use those words as it belittles what those members have been or are experiencing in their lives. The other sad part is that my local LDS friends would not talk about what happened and distanced themselves. Somehow either hearing that I'm now labeled an “apostate” or that I knowingly resigned, I was endowed with some kind of “anti-testimony” kryptonite. Most people don't know how to approach those who have left or who have had questions. I'm sure there's some sort of cognitive dissonance about how someone could leave but it happens. I find it a bit ironic that during Fast and Testimony meetings people will stand and extol how strong the foundation of their testimony is, how they would die for the Gospel. Yet somehow just greeting or saying hello to someone who is considered by members to have Mormon BO who is having challenges will somehow damage that “rock solid” testimony. Some of those people need to get back down on their knees! They have a lot to learn about Christ-like thought and behavior. Hey, even human-like behavior would be an improvement.
Though it has been some time since Fred was in charge, his legacy still lives on. Last year I was at the local Costco to grab some lunch and I saw two missionaries sitting with a member whose face I remember, but not his name. I grabbed three extra frozen yogurts, sat at the table next to them and gave them the desserts. I introduced myself, said carefully I was no longer a member, and chatted about their work. I didn't share my story but was positive and upbeat. Before I left, I gave the Elders my name, phone number and email, and asked if they would see the bishop on Sunday, if they could give this to him since I'd like to meet him and introduce myself. As I stood up, said good-bye and began to walk away, I overheard the member loudly whisper to them that I'm an apostate. It never seems to end. I never heard anything back. Church shouldn't be a fight for acceptance, and the callousness of members does keep people away. There are good members out there, and there are things I could help with as part of the community. I've also learned some “colorful” vocabulary since leaving, and I think I would liberally use that language with members like that guy at Costco. Also, having had cancer taught me that it was okay to judicially use “F” bombs (it does help!) and I think a few of those used with self-righteous members would have the intended effect to shut them up.
In your last email you said that no matter where I was, all you wanted was for me to find peace. That meant the world to me, thank you, and I have. Your letter reminded me so much of your parents and their love and acceptance. I'm sure they're beaming with pride!
That's it -- a very long treatise. Thank you for listening. I really wanted to just share my experience with your folks, but I felt it would take this much to put the depth of what happened into context. I was truly blessed to call you and your parents as friends, and as family.
Take good care, hopefully our paths will cross again. They have in an indirect way. When you were recently at Disneyland, you would have heard me in Tomorrowland and in New Orleans Square. I'm still doing voice over on the side for The Mouse.
Huge and enormous hugs,
Questions I've answered
Are you still christian? More was mormon answers about 'Are you still christian?'
No. I spent way too many years worshiping Christ. I believe he existed, was a teacher, but his divinity? I don't know, and honestly now don't care. His followers also sealed the deal for me; I'm no longer christian. Honestly, I see more "christian" behavior within the neopagan community. Most of them have Judeo-Christian backgrounds, and are also shunned by many "good christians" as following Satan. They kind of don't know that Satan is a christian construct and has no place in pagan traditions!
Are you happy? More was mormon answers about 'Are you happy?'
Oh my gods, YES..!!! I'm away from the "worthiness culture" of the Mormon (victory for Satan) Church. "I" am responsible for my own actions and, when necessary, to correct things I may have royally messed up and may have hurt people in the process. I was responsible for that behavior, not by the influence of some demon or devil.
The freedom to think, to ruminate, and live on this amazing planet is truly a gift. To remember that I made myself miserable only to have hope that the misery would turn to miraculous in the after-life makes me ill to think about. Do we have another life after this one? I don't honestly know. I believe there is something, but I am going to be the best damn human being I can in the short time I'll be walking on the planet.
Oh, one of the best parts (aside from discovering coffee, wine, and spirits) is that Hanes underwear actually fits! No more "garmies" for me! :-)
Was it The Only True and Living Church to you? More was mormon answers about 'Was it The Only True and Living Church to you?'
I am embarrassed to say, that, yes, I was arrogant enough to think, and then teach on my mission, that the LDS church was the one and only true church on the face of the Earth. I want to apologize to all those people I baptized in Argentina for having lied to them. [shudder!]
What did the Mormon religion bring to your life? More was mormon answers about 'What did the Mormon religion bring to your life?'
Though I had a painful exit, I did gain a lot from my "Mormon Period." I was taught leadership, another language, living in a foreign country, public speaking, friends (though most dropped away once they married), and the need to care for others. In that last one, I took Home Teaching very, very seriously, and needed to make sure my families (or individuals) were okay.
What do you feel or know about Joseph Smith's Polygamy? More was mormon answers about 'What do you feel or know about Joseph Smith's Polygamy?'
Abhorrent in the extreme.
What parts of Mormonism were harmful to you? More was mormon answers about 'What parts of Mormonism were harmful to you?'
Beyond the political stances (which should raise the ire of the IRS), the one part that harmed me professionally was from several local leaders.
At the time, I was working in home hospice during the AIDS crisis. Nearly all my patients were dying of HIV infection and AIDS. I was told by these LDS leaders that I should not be caring for these sinners because they had gained the appropriate punishment for their chosen lifestyle. Let me tell you, the horror of AIDS is that it does not LET you die until there is nothing left. I was appalled at them telling me to turn those patients away. It was during the time that Boyd KKK Packer encouraged parents to NOT let their LGBTQ children stay overnight in their homes as it could provide tacit approval of their lifestyle.
I loudly refused their "guidance," and told them where to put it (I was really mad). I was then told, "Your compassion will condemn you."
Let me repeat that, "Your compassion will condemn you," caring for the sick and dying.
I did call the Stake President a "fucking bastard" for saying that, and I think the "F" bomb curled his garments! I hope it did. I remembered those words each time when I was the only one with a patient when they drew their last breath, one of those happened to be a gay excommunicated LDS returned missionary. Nearly all those that died alone had been thrown out literally and figuratively by their families.
Is that the kind of church I would want to be a part of? This all happened before the story above, but I believe it put some of the first "cracks" in my shelf.