Hi, I’m Olivia.
I am a coffee-loving, beagle cuddling, boy mom. I was a mormon.
My earliest memories involve being watched by my Poppy, who was a football watching fisherman who loved his cuppa and cold one. My Dad was a Bishop and med student during my early years so I didn’t see him a lot but when I did, it revolved around learning the gospel. I always knew I was loved. The church in Australia where I was born and Houston where I grew up were a close knit community full of activities and generational ties, especially with that of my ancestors, which were early pioneers in both America and Australia, building the church (quite literally building churches).
The suppression of individuality and expression became an issue for me as a teenager. But I remained at war with myself, since my dominant self was a overachieving spiritual person in the sense of pleasing God in the way I was taught with gusto.
My devotion as a teen included involvement in all church meetings and activities, many hours of service, leadership and proselytizing and childcare of my siblings. Attending seminary required waking up at 4:30am for some of the four years I was in high school due to carpooling and distance. It was pretty evident in my youth that worthiness and devotion to the church was the most essential purpose of my existence.
On my shelf
On the Mormon Spectrum
My main concern has been sexuality— how it’s controlled in the personal lives of members, especially those who are queer. I’ve experienced harmful shame over developmentally normal aspects of sexuality. The high standard the church requires for entering into temple covenants was something I fought for and met, but being in the highest tier a regular member can get, I found empty promises. I was disappointed to learn that Joseph Smith who I loved and respected dearly, was the chief misuser of sexuality. Then many things fell into place as to the hypocrisy of the unreasonable standards of misogyny and submission required on a psychological level to meet these requirements. I also value honesty, and see that many contradictions exist which have personally affected my life, but I clung and trusted. The only way I was able to allow myself to entertain that it might not be true is through my husband reassuring me that he would stay with me and our relationship would not change if I were to leave.
Questions I've answered
What parts of Mormonism were harmful to you? More was mormon answers about 'What parts of Mormonism were harmful to you?'
Something of emphasis in the church is the notion you can’t turn off and on your identity as a member, that you represent it in all circumstances. There is also a strict commandment to obey the prophet. This became burdensome as I tried to consult myself on life choices but hadn’t learned the skill of thinking for myself or critically outside of what authority figures deemed important and what my indoctrination laid out for me. The church took up so many hours of my free time and interfered with my academic motivation. It was also implied that my role in life was to be a wife and mother and because I had that intention, as well as the charge to marry a Mormon boy, I lost opportunities to develop in my sense of self and question what I wanted for my life aside from these goals.
Are you happy? More was mormon answers about 'Are you happy?'
Yes. After Mormonism I am able to own my own self. That includes wearing underwear not issued by the church, having permission to think independently, and let go of shame I usually had in day-to-day. Been able to experience life more realistically, I have more motivation and my marriage relationship is better.
How do you now explain the spiritual experiences that you had as an Orthodox Mormon? More was mormon answers about 'How do you now explain the spiritual experiences that you had as an Orthodox Mormon?'
I value and treasure the experiences I’ve had with other humans in the church. There was not a more fun scene to be in than my youth group. Human connection and relationships are powerful. I believe I was feeling the experiences and emotions that are part of being alive.
What did and do you feel about the Mormon Temple Ceremony? More was mormon answers about 'What did and do you feel about the Mormon Temple Ceremony?'
Why can’t I wear clothes for this? Was one thought I had. Touched by a stranger without verbal consent. Going into a ceremony without any preconceived idea of what I would agree to or do. Why do I have to veil my face is another, be separated from my husband, or so strange rituals and chants and handshakes. Promising to give myself to my husband while he receives me is indicative of polygamous eternity. So many sexist messages and rituals that are identical to Masonic temple ceremony, copied almost word for word.
Even so, I will say my experiences overall in the temple were positive. The psychological relief of making it was great, after prepping my entire life since infancy to gain entrance and be in the know. I felt privileged to reach a goal that both pleased my parents and most people I knew, AND gave me security in my eternal welfare. While in the temple, if you can dissociate enough, there are great conditions to feel uplifted. I like stepping away from the outside world, meditating and being in a beautiful clean place uninterrupted. Especially in contrast to the bombarding frenzied state of church callings, meetings routines and responsibilities that are required the other percentage of the time spent outside of the temple. It was only after analyzing deeper the content of the temple that I realized it was a sham.
Has your struggle improved since you left? More was mormon answers about 'Has your struggle improved since you left?'
I no longer feel stressed by the shame and expectations. I have more to spend with people I love and topics I have interest in. My body feels better and I am immensely at peace.
The hardest part is disappointing family and feeling misunderstood.
Did you want to sin? Is that why you left? More was mormon answers about 'Did you want to sin? Is that why you left?'
I intentionally waited to officially resign before trying coffee, alcohol or otherwise identifying as not Mormon. I take my vows very seriously and even if some believe they’re arbitrary, I spent so much time making these promises that it only felt fair to remove myself formally from the contract out of respect for the time I spent believing it.
How did you lose your faith in Mormonism (or Orthodox Mormonism)? More was mormon answers about 'How did you lose your faith in Mormonism (or Orthodox Mormonism)?'
It started when I occasionally took off garments in exchange for normal underwear due to sweating, chaffing, infection, skin irritation and mental health. I noticed how relieved I felt when I didn’t wear them, and how it improved my attractiveness based on my husband’s response. One day I revealed to my husband (in a full out crying fit) that I can’t bear to wear garments anymore. Stopping cold turkey, I also stopped paying tithing and stopped praying and reading scriptures just to see how I felt. As a sort of experiment I noticed my anxiety improved. I went from having anxiety attacks multiple times a day to none or occasional. I also started on an antidepressant and therapy.
Were you offended? Is that why you left? More was mormon answers about 'Were you offended? Is that why you left?'
I have been offended, like when I occasionally attend I hear comments made about the type of person who leaves the church, how they haven’t worked hard enough or been steadfast enough. This is hurtful because I have studied extensively. Instead of the blame attached to the individual who broke free, analyze why the church encourages you to “doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith” and read only faith-promoting sources. Why are historical documents “anti-Mormon”? If the church is accurate why does it not stand up to scrutiny? Why are dissenters labeled and warned about?
The reason I am offended enough to leave is not because of any person. I am offended by truth claims that are not true. I am offended that I was taught and trained for 28 years of my life in false ideologies that caused me harm.
What parts of Mormonism were harmful to you? More was mormon answers about 'What parts of Mormonism were harmful to you?'
Dress code, dietary restrictions, limitations of speech, time commitments, forced to fast as a child, sleep deprivation, child labor, limited sexual education. Groomed to be susceptible to abuse- for example routinely being interviewed alone by older men alone as a child. Trained to not question authority, deceived by teachings that have been blatantly untrue (method by which BoM was translated, historical inaccuracy of the BoM, Joseph Smith’s crimes and misdeeds, etc.). Other ways I’ve been harmed are through consequences told to me if I choose not to be in the church, including losing my relationship with my family in the afterlife, or being a single person who can only minister as an angel if I don’t marry in the temple. Just in general at the whim of the mystical ideas of a guy from the 1800s.
How do you currently feel about your church service? More was mormon answers about 'How do you currently feel about your church service?'
I was asked to give a lesson to 11 and 12 year old girls about ‘overcoming the evils of pornography’ in a room without their parents. I remember having these conversations as a child. I saw the cycle unfolding and I didn’t want to be an agent. Asking to be released from that calling was the first step toward my transition. It was evident I was trusted to speak for the church on sexuality without being a licensed professional and without the parents knowing beforehand what I’d say or being present. There is no background check on me to work directly with children over this period of three years. I was frequently in their company and I think of how someone inclined to abuse could have such rampant access to children this way. I was appalled that these conversations were planned by the church curriculum. I was not interested in preaching abstinence.
Are Mormons Christian? More was mormon answers about 'Are Mormons Christian?'
Depends who you ask.
What resources were most helpful in your transition out of Mormonism (or Orthodox Mormonism)? More was mormon answers about 'What resources were most helpful in your transition out of Mormonism (or Orthodox Mormonism)?'
I read a book called Pezzetino by Leo Leonni about a little piece who wanted to be a part of a bigger piece until one day embarked on a quest and fell, breaking into many pieces. It’s then he realized “I am myself” and doesn’t have to be part of another larger entity to have meaning. This was a major shift for me, I resonated so much to this story to the point of tears but I couldn’t identify why. I decided to explore what being myself outside of the church could mean.
I felt compelled to share this storybook while teaching Relief Society (women’s-only Sunday school class). Lessons in RS centered on talks by male leadership on achieving worthiness based on further aligning oneself with the rules. In my time teaching I tried to convey my new interest in autonomy and sovereignty. I did so until I was assigned a talk by Elder Eyring— teaching that revelation we receive should align with what prophets say. I could not teach that theology and asked to not teach.
In my time PIMO (physically in, mentally out) I became increasingly sensitive to messages of conformity, sexist roles and gaslighting. I had a vested interest in cults and listened to The Indoctrination Podcast by Rachel Bernstein. Many of the stories told by Jehovah Witnesses, NXIM, Christian Scientist and Scientology resonated with me and put into words the thoughts and feelings I couldn’t explain. The next months involved pouring over historical documents, the CES letter, Letter to my Wife, and Wikipedia to find answers and fact check the budding concerns of why my church was the way it was, and why I felt so hurt by it. Was it just my fault or is there a grander reason hidden from me that could answer the oppression I felt?
The part that led to my resignation is my study of Jospeh Smith from reading No Man Knows My History to really piece him together. I had to understand why he would intentionally deceive and manipulate others. His behaviors matched up to a T of predator and pedophile behavior.
What are the biggest misconceptions about Mormons? More was mormon answers about 'What are the biggest misconceptions about Mormons?'
That they do not practice polygamy anymore. Men can be married (“sealed”) to multiple women but women cannot be sealed to more than one man. For example, the prophet is currently sealed to two women. Polygamy still exists as a doctrine.