Both my parents grew up Mormon and so I inherited their beliefs by default. I was born and raised in Utah where my family was actively involved and attended the church and their activities consistently. I was a mormon.
On my shelf
# Why I left More stories of 'Why I left' the Mormon church
My mother grew up in a large Mormon family being one of 12 children and my dad was also one of 9 children who grew up as Mormon. Needless to say they both suffered in their childhoods due to financial strains and a lack of nurturing attention. Looking back now, I had the same upbringing.
I never liked church starting at the primary age. It was boring with weird stories with weird names and was a confusing language. Listening to the congregation sing was depressing it sounded like torture not a celebration of worship. I had crippling shyness and I didn’t like singing and I didn’t like dresses and I always felt pressure from my peers and the culture to be outgoing and share my testimony boldly. There weren’t real discussions about struggling with my beliefs or my family issues. The main message that came across was fitting in, being loyal and having strong faith. It seemed unacceptable if you or your family doubted any beliefs or weren’t fitting the Mormon mold.
My mother’s temper and emotions always seemed to rule our household. I’ve always known her to be emotionally distant, rarely nurturing or comforting especially with me and I can remember this treatment as early as 6 years old. The dysfunction in my close family became readily apparent during my teens. Backhanded compliments, silent treatment and passive aggressiveness towards me was a daily occurrence from my mother. The resentment my mother had towards me rarely happened with my brother and I began to notice the contrasting behavior my mother had outside of the home. Smiling and pleasant as if there were no issues.
My family has consistently struggled financially. When my brother and I were children my mother didn’t work and stayed at home as the Mormon religion promotes. My father always worked and his goal seemed to be focused on providing for his family. He had ambitions and was impressive in my eyes especially since he originated from a poor farm in Delta, Utah to becoming a refined car sales man in Salt Lake City. His story is a successful one in my book. My parents have encountered multiple bankruptcies throughout their lives and have always been risky with their little money. I believe that the childhood trauma that my mother experienced caused mental illness and resentment. Those experiences combined with the Mormon culture developed into abusive situations.
During my teens we lived in an undesirable house. It was not the typical cookie cutter Mormon family house and it was, at best a fixer upper. I believe that’s when my mother’s mental health turned for the worst because she couldn’t fit in and get the life she wanted fast enough. She wanted the cookie cutter Mormon life with a large house in a neighborhood and to have lots more children than what she had. It was too difficult for my mother to accept the life that she had and to give up on the fantasies that she wanted. I believe that’s when she started to mentally break and started pretending that she was living her dream life in front of people and when she came back home she was faced with her miserable reality. Also at this time my parents received their licenses in real estate and began working for a broker. Our lives were feast or famine from there. All our anxieties were focused on the threat of going without essentials and I remember shameful periods of time that our electricity was actually shut off. Taking showers surrounded by mold and without any light while my mother pretended that nothing was wrong was very difficult.
My father rarely attended church or activities in my teens. Our congregation and neighborhood consisted of families who were well off and secure in their finances who also had large families with lots of children. I believe the shame my father learned from his peers and the stark differences in family dynamics made a very uncomfortable environment for him. I believe that he was pressured and shamed by my mother because she was demanding for him alone to provide her fantasy life. I never viewed my father in a negative way, I had empathy for him and I trusted him which is surprising because I was taught to treat people differently. In the Mormon culture I learned to judge and fear those people who are not part of the Mormon faith. My mother made it vocally clear that the congregation especially the bishopric were pressuring her to convince my father to attend church and that she was frustrated and uncomfortable with it.
When I was in middle school my mother’s emotional abuse escalated towards me enough for her to start a physical fight once, I tried to fight her but ended up running off the property. I never fit in with my community and never considered anyone, any neighbors a true ally. I felt alone without any support. No one ever talked to me about my family issues. No one saw my mother’s abuse.
I was constantly told who I was supposed to be in this life, how I was supposed to act and feel and that never aligned with my soul. I was told to date a certain way, to get married a specific way to a specific type of person and I was supposed to make babies. I felt pressure to conform to church standards and believe things that I didn’t care about. I knew from a young age that I never wanted to birth children, I never wanted to be a mother…just look at the one I had. I was constantly told that bringing souls to earth was my overall life purpose by my church leaders. It was even in my patriarchal blessing! My mother always felt burdened by her kids except when it came to the topic of giving her grandchildren. She felt entitled to a better life but was unable or unwilling to go get it. I wasn’t going to follow her footsteps. I didn’t want to be with my family together forever.
This is just the tip of the iceberg. It would take me through a temple marriage and a divorce, cutting ties with my family and up until age 28 to finally say “Enough!” and walk away from the torture of the Mormon religion.
Realistic conversations, belief struggles and mental health topics need to be more common in any religion. Heaven knows it would have helped me.