Thursday, March 29, 2018

Mormon church history (why we should know)

The reason why it matters to me to post about the bad things in my own community are 1.  To atone for the judgment I heaped upon the catholic church when their scandal erupted, including judging those members who still attended even if they were not part of the controversy.  2.  To (in a round about way) encourage us to learn and face our history more so that we can stop being doomed to repeat it.  During my darkest days of full and literal belief in my religion but also deadly feelings from the PTSD my friend encouraged me to read some history books she'd read lately.  I resented her for pushing her newfound history obsession on me in my time of weary weakness, but eventually let her talk me into reading to discuss the same books she'd been in.  It was amazingly helpful to read and digest the books along with youtube videos and podcasts about the same topics and really digest it together.  I am thankful she forced me into it, because I needed to know.  And I'm grateful I had a friend along the way.

I needed to know that Joseph Smith coerced young girls into secretly living as his wives while he led the church and towns they lived in as the prophet.  I needed to know that many of the married men he sent on missions far away were sent off so their wives would be available for the same secret practice.  All with him, and all as he was seen as the most amazing man next to Jesus by his loyal church members.  Oh man it was painful to learn all of that stuff after 30 something years of church teachings and hymns about how great he was and how exalted he treated his wife Emma, "the elect lady."

I foraged into the deep first person accounts and journals of the girls and women affected by this practice.  And their words sunk into my heart, but made the "normal" everyday things we are taught in church painful to listen to.  Church is painful when people are weeping and testifying of things that the church now admits are not the actual history, but someone's heart and brain convinced them to believe at a young age.

I needed to know this real and raw history to make sense of how my leaders- 3 bishops to be exact- could lead me into shame and submission and spiritual shunning for the months that I was disfellowshipped.  I literally didn't even realize until my 30s that the fact that I had told the bishop I had said no to the thing forced upon me made it sexual assault.

 I was pushed down on my back, I was held down.  I said no 3 times, and I felt immense shame that the private parts I was protecting for marriage had been so quickly seen and vandalized by someone I had no physical means to even attempt to fight back with.  He had driven me in my mom's car to his house in the middle of a church stake dance to do this, because my family trusted him enough to hand him their keys. It was so mind blowing to think I could even explain what happened to someone else.  I never bothered to try.

What I won't ever forget is the winter velvet prairie style dress I had sewn especially for that dance hitting the dark brown carpet of his living room floor.  I also won't forget the time he pinned me down again in my own home to whisper "I am in charge of this," a couple years later.  Because embarrassingly enough I was still dating him.

And that meant that those men spiritually punished me for being a sexual assault victim.  And that my brain and my desire to be a great mormon kept that from bothering me for a good 20 years until my body rebelled and collapsed into health problems and panic attacks and severe depression.  In the midst of that, learning the REAL history of my church's founder and the women he brought into his life gave me perspective when trying to heal myself.  I attempted to counsel with a current bishop about how this had affected me, and his knee jerk response was to suggest that I could be having panic attacks because I hadn't "fully repented" when I had my almost year long disfellowhipment as an 18/19 year old.  Knowing the egregious sins that our founder Joseph committed, my fiery heart immediately knew how wrong he was.  And my sweet, fiery husband immediately spoke to that bishop for an hour instructing him on where he had gone wrong with that response.  Could a woman have done that?  Would he have listened to a woman?  That is an (obvious) point that ties to my other activism feelings, but nevertheless, I am glad I was armed with knowledge of the weakness at all levels, and the wrongness of those who tried to pit my love from God against me.

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