Friday, April 20, 2007

Should I stay or should I go now?

Why do I want to leave the church? It's a fair question, particularly from an active member. Let's face it, lots of religions offer lots of good things to many people--why not just pick the one you're born with, and which most of your family affiliates with, and make the best of it? Why leap into the great unknown?

The factual errors behind the church aren't really the biggest issue for me. They're important to identify, of course, because without them you can't question anything. I mean, if Smith really did see God and Jesus, and they really told him to sleep around and make up the Book of Abraham, then you've got to think that you'd better keep studying the Book of Mormon, etc. But realizing that the church is built on a sandy foundation isn't sufficient justification to begin smoking, obviously. There are still some good ideas in there.

On the flip side, family is a huge issue. I can't do anything without profoundly affecting my wife and I'm sensitive to that. As long as she is a believer I feel compelled to support her by attending weekly, holding a calling, etc. But that's not really a defense of the church.

So let's pretend...if she were at the same point in her faith journey that I am...

The main reason I would stay in the church is for the opportunities it gives me to teach my kids and bond as a family. I believe that family myths and shared rituals are very important. I know full well that these can be developed by any family, but I also believe that it takes a lot more energy to do it completely on your own. Take FHE, for example. Attending church reminds you to do it, and I think sitting down as a family for some quality discussion, singing, etc. is good. Without the church I'd have to develop my own ritual, then stick to it without any external cultural support. Not impossible, but difficult. I'd also have to make concerted efforts to talk to my kids about smoking, drinking, sleeping around, being nice to others, etc. Right now I can rest assured that if I skip a week or two, the Primary teachers have my back. That's helpful, because I think that singing "Follow the Prophet" is less dangerous than never being taught avoid drugs. (Again, I'm not saying that I would never talk about that stuff, but isn't it easy to forget?)

This same church indoctrination, however, is my main reason for wanting to leave. Especially for the sake of my girls. I shared some quotes from a YW lesson in an earlier post, but those just scratched the surface. A few months ago I spent some time (an hour or so) looking at topics in both the YM and YW manuals. The differences were mind-boggling. It made me ill. Here's a smattering of what bothers me:
  1. Homemaking lessons. YW are taught that this is a critical way to improve the world and bring the Spirit into their lives. This year's manual (#2) has two in a row (Home Environment & Sharing Work in the Home). YM do not have a single lesson on this topic.
  2. Picking a particular topic, e.g. obedience, shows a focus on roles for women (obey so that you can be a mother and helpmeet, #1 commandment is multiply & replenish the earth) and on freedom of choice (obey so that you can have more options) for boys.

I'm not trying to be exhaustive here--just giving a quick example. But this kind of thing drives me crazy. They've fixed this in the RS/PH split by going to single manuals. Why haven't they done this for YM/YW? Exposing my girls to this kind of indoctrination is supremely frustrating--I am left to deliver conflicting messages: teaching them humanist ideals at home while sending them off to YW every week! (Of course, I'm 9 years from having a girl in YW....)

30 Comments:

Blogger AZ Awakening said...

My wife is still active, and since my daughter was BIC she attends with her. My advice is be true to yourself and your family will adjust, it won't be easy but if your wife loves you more than the church your marriage will survive.

As for family traditions, we still pray as a family, reading is done from good books or the Old Testament, and good advice from church leaders or others is just that; good advice. Your concluding points about the differences between YM and YW should be enough for you to make the right choice, leave. Be supportive of your wife, but allow time to work out the issues.

April 20, 2007 at 1:18 PM  
Blogger Phaedrus said...

LB:

I picked up your blog from Huff's, where you left a comment. I am a cyber-friend of Sister Mary Lisa, and frequently comment on Otterson's On-Faith thread. I just wanted to let you know that I empathize with your dilemma, because you are in what psychologists refer to as an approach-avoidance conflict. The closer you come to making a break with what seems a false belief system from a truth-value perspective, and as repulsive as LDS gender-relations doctrine is, there are also practices within the LDS lifestyle that promise attractive outcomes for you children. And, of course this is not to even consider the impact that leaving the church will have on your marriage.

I will not presume to give you advice, but I do see a benefit in asking the right questions and weighing the costs and benefits of alternatives. You are clearly doing both, and I wish you the best as you do so.

April 20, 2007 at 6:12 PM  
Blogger Ujlapana said...

AZA: I guess the question is, what does "true to yourself" actually mean? I want to make a clean break with the church and I want to do things that make my wife happy (that makes me happy). So, like most decisions in life, my values are in conflict. At the moment I continue to sow seeds of concern where possible in the cog-dis fields of my wife's mind. When the field is white and ready to harvest...

Phaedrus: Thanks for the comment. Nice to have a name for my experience--just shows how universal so much of human existence is.

April 22, 2007 at 5:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is interesting that you have so much concern for your girls. I grew up a non-Mormon and converted before marrying my wife who grew up a member. One of the things that attracted me to her most was her desire to get an education so she would be able to provide for her children if her husband ever died. I also appreciated her drive to be a better person, to do things for those around her, and to show love in as many ways as she could. Somehow, being subjugant never really seems to enter in to how I view my wife. I appreciate her for who she is and what she brings to the table of our marriage. If the church had even a small part in helping her there, then I am truly thankful for it. Why not, rather than tear down your wife's faith which makes her so happy, consider the good you see in the church and ask yourself if the things you find wrong with it are "the church" or "the members". Most of the flaws seem to be in how others practice, not in the teachings. The church has a strong foundation, and I can attest to that as I have studied it as a non-believer who tried to refute it as well as a believer who sees the truth in it for just that: truth. I urge you to reconsider your stance and remain faithful in the church.

April 23, 2007 at 7:11 PM  
Blogger Ujlapana said...

Anon, thanks for your comments. I would have to disagree with you though--I think the strengths I see in the church come from the practice, not the teachings (but the teachings are so hard to nail down!). Most active members are trying to be better people in a universally accepted sense. For most of them, the community assists them in that pursuit. Some active members do offensive things. This is all part of life with a group of humans.

Sometimes, you have to tear down a dilapidated old building to put up something more beautiful. But I don't need to (nor could I) completely tear it down--I just want her to open the door and experience nature. Then she (like many) will realize it was a little stuffy in there, the view wasn't so great, and it was hard to get to know your neighbors.

I'm glad you're having such a positive experience in the church. There are plenty of women in the church who are more educated than their husbands, in spite of the teachings. There are plenty of marriages that function as partnerships, in spite of the teachings. There are people who accept gays as being a product of their genes/early environment, in spite of the teachings. There were members who called a racist doctrine racist before 1978, in spite of the teachings. There are even people who know when the President has overstepped his bounds (earring counts?), in spite of teachings. But if you don't believe patriarchy/bigotry/vanity/etc. are good teachings, why put your kids in classes to be so taught? That's my struggle. I just have to be vigilant and quick to correct on the drive home every Sunday, right?

April 24, 2007 at 4:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Same anon, in response to your response:

I sometimes get the impression that long-time members have a lot of baggage regarding some of the old teachings that I've just never encountered. I certainly don't see the subservience of women being taught today. Just because my wife stays at home with my kids does not mean she is my slave to do my bidding. Any time she sees an opportunity to make money in a way that interests her, we discuss it. If something came along that she felt right about doing and it meant putting our kids in some sort of day care situation, then we would probably do that. So far, nothing has been interesting enough to her to want to give up her time teaching and loving our kids. I think society has been far more guilty of putting down women than the church has, personally. They treat it as somehow less important or less valuable if a woman is in the home. Personally, I think my wife has the harder job, and I am thankful for her willingness to do it. To be the leader in the way Christ taught is to be a servant, not to be an order-giver. I truly see that teaching in the church.

Back to the older teachings, though. I think a lot of those get blown out of proportion. Blacks were not excluded from membership, and not all blacks were unable to hold the priesthood. Compare that to blacks being wholy excluded from white churches, and which is worse? The church was in the midst of a dangerous situation already in the midst of the Civil Rights Movement just by having mixed congregations. The LDS Church did a lot more to bring its members together than any other church, in my opinion. In the end, though, it comes down to whether the church teaches truth or lies. I don't see any lies being taught. I see teachings that might seem on the surface to be harsh and restrictive, but I find obedience to those teachings brings greater joy in life. The Word of Wisdom teaches us to basically live healthy. The concern for modesty in dress helps us to avoid promoting impure thoughts by showing too much skin. Those are good practices, regardless of your faith. In any event, I know how hard it can be when you are the only member of your family who believes a certain way. I am the only Mormon in my family, and my father, mother, and sister sometimes have real trouble with some of my beliefs. I do my best not to push my practices on them, but I also have to help my children follow the LDS teachings and not do some of the things Grandma and Grandpa do. We work through it, though, and I hope you can work through your struggles.

April 24, 2007 at 9:57 AM  
Blogger Sister Mary Lisa said...

What I find interesting is how during the first part of your writing, I thought, but what if your children are girls?? Then you started a new paragraph and there it was: my thoughts about how girls are treated in the church and how differently they are treated than the boys.

Anon, I think it's great that your wife and you enjoy being equal in your home. At church, however, you are not equal.

April 29, 2007 at 3:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My wife and I have different roles at church, be are equal. She is more important to our branch, if anything, but I think we are both vital right now. The fact that I hold the priesthood and she does not does not make us unequal. You could just as easily turn it around and say that it's unfair that she can be endowed and enter the celestial kingdom without having to receive priesthood authority while I do, but again, the priesthood does not represent an inequality. It is just a difference in roles. While some may look down on women for being homemakers and mothers, I do not. I revere them for making such a sacrifice. I know it is a very hard job. Women are a vital part of the church and are by no means "less" than men.

April 29, 2007 at 5:54 PM  
Blogger Sister Mary Lisa said...

Anonymous ~

You wrote, "You could just as easily turn it around and say that it's unfair that she can be endowed and enter the celestial kingdom without having to receive priesthood authority while I do..."

Actually, your wife can NOT enter the celestial kingdom until you (her priesthood bearing husband) call her forth using the name she was given in the temple ~ the name YOU were not required to tell HER, but that she WAS required to tell you. In fact, you have the right to not call her forth through the veil if you wish. (not saying you would do so, but you could if you desired) That is not an "equal" practice.

Also, I personally KNOW that things are not equal for women in the church. I married a non-member when I was 21. I decided a few years into our marriage that I'd like to go to the temple to take out my endowments (after much urging from my bishop that he felt I should and that I was obviously ready). So I took the temple prep class and was very excited to finally have a chance to take out my endowments for myself and complete another ordinance toward my personal salvation.

My bishop asked me to bring my husband to the interview for my recommend. I figured this was because he was our friend, and our home teacher, and that he planned to use the opportunity to have a missionary moment with my husband.

Nope. I was instead blindsided by a rule the church has that women married to non-members must get HIS PERMISSION IN WRITING if they are to be allowed to take out their endowments. I had never before heard of this rule. Have you? Furthermore, it's not required of men married to non-member wives. This is sexist in the extreme.

So, I do not agree at all with your statement. A woman is NOT able to be endowed, and enter the celestial kingdom on her own.

And if you are not a woman who grew up in the church, it's very easy for you not to understand exactly how the church treats women with inequality. I do not tell you these things in a spirit of contention. I just want to point out that I have real reasons to know better.

April 29, 2007 at 8:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I can see where you're coming from, sml. I'll just leave it at that.

April 30, 2007 at 9:29 AM  
Blogger Sister Mary Lisa said...

:) Fair enough, Anon. Thanks for not discrediting my feelings as if I have no right to feel this way.

April 30, 2007 at 9:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You have every right to feel however you choose. I would not begin to discredit your feelings. I appreciate you not discrediting mine.

April 30, 2007 at 11:56 AM  
Blogger Sister Mary Lisa said...

Just out of curiosity, have any of you ever heard of this rule that women married to non-members must first get written permission from their husbands in order to take out their endowments? I was born and raised in the church, and never once heard of this until I experienced it firsthand.

As I experienced being denied this permission, it sure felt like my husband, who wasn't even a member of my church, enjoyed more say over my spiritual welfare than I did, and the church gave him this power simply because he's a man.

What do you make of it?

April 30, 2007 at 1:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have heard of it, as a woman in my branch has been disallowed entrance into the temple by a husband who left her quite a few years ago but never granted a divorce. I can understand your perspective, as such, because it definitely feels like a stumbling block to some.

April 30, 2007 at 8:03 PM  
Blogger Sister Mary Lisa said...

"feels like a stumbling block"?? How about IS a stumbling block. It amazes me when some men in the church say out loud that women truly are equal, even after they see for themselves and KNOW that such unequal practices as you and I describe are "accepted" treatment of women within the church. Wow.

I wouldn't wish the heartache a woman in this situation feels on anyone, not even my worst male enemy.

Ujlapana, I apologize for monopolizing this comments thread. I honestly didn't mean to.

April 30, 2007 at 8:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What I mean is that some feel themselves stumble because of the rule. Sometimes the greatest challenges come with the richest rewards. I do not mean to trivialize your point at all, either. Sometimes the greatest challenge to one's faith can come through having to wait for something. I have watched many women who look at every relationship after they turn 20 as "the one" until the man screws up. I have encouraged my female friends in the church to slow themselves down, and quit worrying about dating anyone when I see that attitude. They need to figure out who they are before they can choose the right man to spend eternity with. Being 25 and unmarried is by no means a crime, nor is it even "old" as some seem to think. Outside the church, that's considered "young" these days, and I point that out to these women. To me, it would be better that they wait patiently for the right man to marry than to choose the next guy to return
from his mission. My marriage came out of peculiar circumstances, and if my wife had ignored me because I wasn't a returned missionary with deep family ties in the church, then we would not now have the wonderful marriage nor the two beautiful children we have today. We dealt with some criticism for not waiting to be married in the temple, and it was hard to be married outside and have to wait, but we knew it was right for us. By being married when we were, though, we were sealed sooner than if we'd've waited until our later planned date, and our daughter was born in the covenant. By dealing with the challenges, we have a stronger relationship between ourselves and with God, and I am honestly thankful for having gone through it all.

Sorry for bringing too much of my own experience onto this, ujlapana, but I just wanted to share a different perspective on this subject.

May 1, 2007 at 6:46 AM  
Blogger Sister Mary Lisa said...

Hi again, my anonymous friend ~

I do agree that it is a challenge having to wait for the church to treat women with equality. The general authorities preach to the men time after time after time that they are supposed to treat women with respect and equality, and that they should place the women on pedestals. Why is that, do you suppose?

Can you imagine sitting down in church and hearing these words: "Women, treat your men with respect. Remember that they have as much worth as you have. You are not better than they are. Even though you preside over them, that doesn't mean that you are better than them. If you are not treating your men as equals, then you are not worthy of the special (priesthood) power God has gifted you."

Just preaching lessons like this out loud teaches men that they are above the women. Telling men that they should grant acceptance and equality to the women as if they have the authority to grant this equality in the first place gives the real message to the men. It also gives a real message to the women who hear the same message being given to the men. Most women at church know full well where they really stand.

It's sad, really. I know so many awesome women at church who buy into their submissive role. Such wonderful women. I wish they could see their own worth.

I hope for your children's sakes that they are boy children and not girl children within the church. I feel hope for them that you are such a good guy. That will do much to help them in life. If only the top leaders of our church were similar.

May 1, 2007 at 8:44 AM  
Blogger Ujlapana said...

SML: I first came across your unfortunate story several months ago. I promptly looked it up in the latest CHI, and was happy to see that such a policy is no longer there. The new policy is for the non-member spouse to be supportive, but there is no gender exception either way. If women were truly equal to men, such a rule would never have existed, but maybe baby steps are being taken anyway.

I wholeheartedly agree with your last example. When Hinckly said (last year?) that women weren't second-class citizens in the RS conference, I immediately pointed out to my wife that he would never say that in PH because all the men already know that they're the top dogs! It's so obvious! When actions and words are not in agreement, we all know which one is easier to "hear."

Anon (7 posts? Identify yourself ;-)!), stumbling block is an interesting choice of words, naturally aligned with your beliefs. Perhaps SML would have called it a stepping stone on the way out of the church.

May 1, 2007 at 9:16 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

My oldest child is a girl. I do not plan to teach her to be submissive to a husband. I do plan to help her understand the reasons I believe in obeying God's law and his will. I expect her to obey me and my wife. Once she is an adult, I cannot force her to do anything. If I take my own father's example of how to handle a change in religion, then I think I will do just fine - assuming my daughter were to leave the church. I sincerely doubt she will. I do not fear my daughter developing a perspective of inferiority to men. My wife and I are sensitive to that because she dealt with some of those issues in her own life, but now she has really come to appreciate our different roles.

I certainly see women who submit to their husbands improperly. I see many husbands who improperly exercise their priesthood as well. But I see that within and without the church. The church does not make someone perfect. There is definitely such a thing as a bad Mormon. There's such a thing as a bad non-Mormon, too, but that doesn't justify either side of it. I could give you some grand explanation that your plight of being kept from the temple by your non-member husband will do something really special for you, but it's not my place to make such statements. I can only speak to my own beliefs and experiences, and in the main, my experiences as a member have been wonderfully positive and even those that were not have helped me grow. I know what is right for me and mine, and that is enough for me right now. I would love to help more people feel what I feel about the church, and help more people come to share in the joy I have, but I am perhaps too pragmatic at times. I am willing to accept that not everyone will be happy as a member, because a lot of people have things they would rather do than accept what we believe. I do not stand in judgment of them for it, either, any more than I assume my wife is not my equal. It's simply not my place to decide for anyone but me.

May 1, 2007 at 9:19 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Uj,

I am somewhat surprised you haven't figured out who I am. If you really need to know, I suppose I could share. I've stayed anonymous mostly for the sake of keeping posts consistent (so other readers won't get confused as to whether I am the same person as anonymous). Let me know if you really want me to identify myself, and I will.

May 1, 2007 at 9:24 AM  
Blogger Sister Mary Lisa said...

Anon, you wrote, "I could give you some grand explanation that your plight of being kept from the temple by your non-member husband will do something really special for you..."

Um. No you couldn't. There is no grand explanation for this. It's simply a crappy thing all around. It's not my big test in life to endure. It's a crappy thing I went through for no particular reason except that I'm a woman and it's OK to treat women that way in some people's eyes. That's all. Same crappiness that other woman you described had to endure. Ugh.

May 1, 2007 at 10:02 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You said essentially what I meant. I could give that to you, but it be disingenous. From uj's comments, it is no longer the rule, which I may verify myself later. I was simply saying I would not give you such an explanation because I have none to give.

May 1, 2007 at 10:05 AM  
Blogger Sister Mary Lisa said...

Thank you. I like you, even if you choose to remain anonymous. :)

May 1, 2007 at 10:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you. I want to see if uj guesses who I am now, or asks me to say, before revealing.

May 1, 2007 at 10:50 AM  
Blogger Ujlapana said...

Anon, are you a Libra from Georgia?

May 1, 2007 at 5:20 PM  
Blogger Sister Mary Lisa said...

Anonymous,

You wrote, "My oldest child is a girl. I do not plan to teach her to be submissive to a husband. I do plan to help her understand the reasons I believe in obeying God's law and his will."

That's fine and good, but what about her future LDS husband who may have been taught a bit differently and expects his wife to be submissive? What about if she learns at church to always defer to her priesthood wielding husband and he reinforces this mindset?? It's a valid worry.

May 1, 2007 at 8:50 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

I just knew you knew, uj. Now you know who I am. We can all be happy. Here you go. I really did not post anonymously with any deception in mind. I think I may've even done it on accident the first time on here (I tab through things a lot and probably tabbed and arrowed onto it without noticing). I mostly was interested in your comments about the church youth programs when I first wrote here. But yep, here I am, posting as a non-anon. :)

May 1, 2007 at 8:50 PM  
Blogger Robert said...

sml,

It is a valid worry. But then, that is a valid worry regardless of her membership in the church. I, for one, have watched my sister (a non-member) be what I would call a "follower" all her life. She followed my older brother until he died, then her first boyfriend in college, and now her husband. If he were a terrible man, I might be somewhat more concerned, but there have definitely been times I have worried about her being what you'd call "submissive". As such, I intend to raise my daughter to be an independent thinker. Her mother is an excellent example of this type of thinking, as are all her aunts on my wife's side (both the LDS and non-LDS aunts). Her grandmother is VERY independent minded. I think she has a lot of beautiful female role models in that way. I would be proud of her choosing to marry a fine LDS man in the temple one day, but I certainly want her to know that she has to bring her own thoughts into the conversation of how a family is formed and brought up. I have said many times that I needed to marry a stubborn woman (like my wife) because I am a stubborn man. I've also said that my children need to be stubborn so we don't run them over as parents. My daughter definitely qualifies, as does my son (though in a very different way; he's only six months old). Hopefully my musings here will allay some of your fears. I do not plan to raise a daughter who thinks it is more important to get married as soon as possible than it is to find the right person to stand beside in eternity. I'm certainly glad my wife didn't follow the blueprint of "returned missionary" or especially "returned missionary, BYU graduate, family with long LDS history." I don't fit any of those.

May 1, 2007 at 9:21 PM  
Blogger Sister Mary Lisa said...

That's great, Robert. I'm thinking your kids are very lucky to have you, as is your wife.

May 2, 2007 at 7:43 AM  
Blogger Robert said...

SML,

Thank you for saying so. I know I am lucky to have all three of them.

May 2, 2007 at 8:40 AM  

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