Hi, I am new to this forum and would like to formally introduce myself. I severed ties with the Mormon church ten years ago as a seventeen-year old. Every time that I think I have finally arrived at some sort of acceptance of my Mormon heritage, some new issue crops up. My most recent flare-up has been triggered by a traumatic accident --- the anxiety that resulted from that particular episode ended up stirring up a lot of unresolved past issues.
A little about me --- I am the youngest of seven children. I was born and raised in upstate New York, just a couple hours from Palmyra. My parents both converted in their late twenties. At the time, they had three children. After joining, at the promptings of the the Church teachings, my parents began having more children. My father even claims that he had a vision while visiting the temple that God wanted us to have more children. However, having more children was not easy for my parents. Before having my sister (the second youngest) my mother had a miscarriage. Fifteen months before I was born, my mother gave birth to a still-born Down Syndrome child. But my father is very much a TBM and insisted on continuing, in spite of my mother's reticence (she was 38 when I was born and very much worried about having another child with Down Syndrome). So they had me. After I was born, my father wanted to continue. My mother said no, one of the very few times she has put her foot down about something. So if nothing else, I owe the fact of my existence to the Mormon church.
But the problem is that my parents had neither the time nor the money for more children. When my parents joined the Mormon church, my father was a gunsmith and my mother was a housewife. My father's salary as a gunsmith wasn't enough to feed his existing children, so my parents took in foster children to help make ends meet. Then my parents started having more children, which coincided with my father's company going under. My parents added four more children to the family over the course of seven years, during which time my father's employment was shaky and uncertain. They lived in a drafty old farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, with inadequate heating and faulty structure. Finally, in 1985, the year that I was born, my father's company went bankrupt. Out of desperation, both my parents ended up going back to school --- my mother went on to become a special education teacher, my father a computer technician. And so it was that I grew up with a mother that was pushed to the brink of exhaustion and a father that held the attitude that child-rearing was best left to the woman. I was the toddler running around with ratty blonde hair and a diaper that was only changed every day or so.
Eventually my parents got through school and landed jobs. Things started getting better. The fact that my mother went back to school ended up being the single best thing that has happened to my family --- my mother was the first person in the family to obtain a master's degree and her steady paycheck pulled us into the realm of lower middle-class. But by that time, the poor woman had pretty much checked out of being a mother. She was a human woman who had been given a super-human burden to carry. As a family, we did what that the Mormon church required of us --- we attended church every Sunday, paid tithing, performed callings. But my mother had given up. I was never disciplined as a child. My mother never demanded anything from me. If I put up a fight, she would just sigh and then move on to the million other problems that demanded her attention. From a very young age, I was responsible for feeding and clothing myself. I was never forced to do homework. My siblings and I weren't close either --- my father liked to play favorites, which pitted us against each other in competition for his love.
In spite of all that, I was an active Mormon. Other than a brief rebellious phase in middle school, I was a good student and very religious. I was a studious seminary student, an active Young Woman, and diligent about living the standards that were expected of me. I suppose the Mormon church acted as a substitute for the structure I lacked at home. But I was also a voracious reader. More than anything else, I loved learning. I loved being able to ask questions. I loved being able to push my boundaries. I loved science and literature and art. I also felt very uncomfortable with the idea of proseletyzing, of pushing one set of beliefs onto someone else. Although to be candid, I was also trying my best to be faithful to "every member a missionary", even though it bothered the hell out of me. I also felt very confined by the roles that were prescribed to me as a woman and uncomfortable with the highly patriarchal setting I had been raised in. Furthermore, my mother had set an example of higher education and a steady job, an example that my father had failed to provide. All of this set me on a path that led me to start questioning the existence of a "one true church". Once I realized that truth is subjective --- that what works for one person won't always work for another --- everything just seemed to fall into place.
And that brings me to the present. Ten years have gone by. I left the Church, went to college, got married to a very sweet man. Then I started graduate school only to be hit by a car while walking across the street, forcing me to withdraw from school. Leaving was messy but has eased into a tenuous peace. My father makes some nasty comments now and again but my relationship with my mother has healed, although she refuses to discuss my reasons for leaving. I vacillate between anger at what the Mormon church has cost my family --- is still costing my family --- and acceptance, but at the end of the day, I love my family dearly. I wish I could be more outspoken about who I am, but the unfortunate truth is that my actions could ending up hurting my mother, who has sacrificed so much for our family. And I love her very much, more than I can ever express.
A Post-Mormon Life: http://postmormongirl.blogspot.com