Friday, May 4, 2007

The Weeping Mormon

The clouds in Vernal today were so close to the ground, it seemed you could reach out and touch the face of God. They were grey-blue in color, and the celestial palette was that one you see on certain spring days when the sun shines through the rain and the leaves are the brightest emerald green. It struck my heart so strongly that the pain has been there all day. As I read through the blogs, I've mourned, and I've wept, and I've wished to comfort those faceless souls I know only through their passionate words.

First, I came across a tribute by John Remy: I realized that when I hear Regina Spektor sing, I think about Jana. Her music makes me hyperaware of Jana’s presence in my heart, my mind, my soul.

People at Church seem to remember two of my pseudo-sermons across the pulpit. One was my apology-ridden ‘doubtamony,’ and the other was when I declared that Jana was my goddess.

Mormons take this god and goddess business serious–every one of us is a literal child of god and are therefore godlings, beings of Godly potential. And Jana has always been my goddess. In a life stripped of much of the divinity and meaning that it once had, Jana is my Ishtar, my Innana, my Isis. She is the one being left to me to invest all my irrational faith in, to spend my life in adoration.

I like to think that ours is a love of legends–that some day someone will write songs about it. When I listen to Regina Spektor, I feel like someone already has

Strange that reading this would make me weep. I read this, and I wondered what my life would be like if someone loved me so much.

A poignant image of the "Mormon Circle" written by Margaret Young also touched me deeply:

[My father] would continue giving priesthood blessings to me and to my siblings throughout our lives—the most difficult one being at my brother’s hospital bedside after we were told he would not survive the injuries he had sustained in an accident. That brother, Dad’s namesake (Bobby), lifted his arms as high as he could when Dad walked into the ER room. Bobby was threaded and tubed to monitors and IVs, and being transfused. He said one word: “Hug.” And that’s it—that’s the picture. Dad is maneuvering around the ganglia of wires and tubes to embrace his son, and then to bless him. It’s a godly scene. It expresses the image I have of God—a corporeal being who can reach around our mortal mischief and earthbound wiring to embrace us in the fullness of His glory, no matter how damaged we are.

Later, when Dad’s pancreas failed, it was Bobby who blessed him. That’s the Mormon circle.

Love, eternal union, the Mormon circle. They are so beautiful and so ethereal they make one want to sing and to weep, at the same time. But like the clouds I watch above the Uintah Basin, they can be elusive. There is another side to the story. There are those who have been evicted from the Mormon circle.

Mayan Elephant wrote, concerning the PBS special:

Will y'all think I am a lesser elephant if I admit that I cried? It's fine if you think that. It is true. That was brutal to watch. Effing brutal.

I lost it.

Margaret Toscano did me in. I was just amused without seeing anything very interesting, until Toscano came along. Then, it all changed.

I don't know if there are others on here that have sat on the jury side of a Mormon church court. I have. I was a High Priest in the church. I was in the seats they pictured in that video, the jury seats. Damnit. There is no redemption for that. None. Not ever. It is part of me now. I dont expect to ever be redeemed for having been a part of one of those courts. I can only hope to adjust after having made that part of my life experience.

Hearing Toscano tore me to pieces...
On one hand, I saw Toscano, and I knew she would sit in that chair, and take the bullet for me, for my local leaders, for my mission companions, for my wife and kids, for all women, for Mormons. She could do it because she loved Mormons. Does anyone get that? She loves that community.

Toscano being denied the chance to dress her sister is unreal. If anyone reads this and claims families are forever, remember that image, of a sister, divided from her family, her heritage and ritual...

Tribes and families take care of their own. Cults threaten their own and brainwash them to think its a blessing.

This is not what my people gave their lives for

Equality's words on the same subject:

And then Margaret Toscano told her story. Toscano's sister Janice Allred was excommunicated for publishing a scholarly article on Heavenly Mother (and whose heart-wrenching account of her own kangaroo-court church trial can be found right here) and her story hit me like the sucker punch that killed Houdini. I was floored, overcome with a wave of undifferentiated emotion--a mingling of anger, sadness, liberation, enlightenment. I had read Allred's story and some of the stories of the September Six. But Toscano tells her story so eloquently and passionately that I could not help but be deeply, profoundly moved. And then I went to the PBS web site and as I read her whole interview, two years of searching, praying, meditating, discussing, reading, and thinking about Mormonism and my relationship to it coalesced in my soul.

The totality of thoughts and feelings from hour upon hour of exploration and examination gathered into tight focus. And I was left with a conviction stronger than the cords of death. I now believe that, in good conscience, I can no longer sustain an organization that finds women like Margaret Toscano a threat; an organization that inspires a misplaced zeal that tears families apart; an organization that inspires the kind of unblinking obedience that keeps a missionary from coming home for his mother's funeral (and whose death was a direct result of sacrificing reason on the altar of a misguided faith); an organization that fears the search for knowledge, discourages the publication of accurate history, and punishes the telling of truth; an organization that scapegoats gays, subjugates women, and vilifies intellectuals; an organization that, in short, dehumanizes people to advance its own interest in self-preservation. In sum, I have arrived at the conclusion that the LDS Church "as presently constituted" does violence to my sense of morality

I saw it happen before my eyes again today on a thread at FMH. A commenter seemed to relate to Margaret's story and shared some of his private pain. He spoke of how Mormon ritual can get in the way of human compassion and the process of grief, and sever the family in one of its most vulnerable moments. "We probably all know someone who wasn’t able to attend a marriage ceremony because they hadn’t met ritual requirements. Many of my own family couldn’t attend my wedding for that exact reason," he said. "Now that I no longer number myself among the faithful, I will not be ritually qualified to fully participate in the celebration of any new child born into my family."

Rather than words of comfort or encouragement, those in the Mormon circle assigned words of blame:

"No one is banned from those spiritual steps except by their own choice."

"The apostasy and/or the sinful life which separates from the individual from the gospel is the source of the violence in the separation. It creates the conflict the, the rest of it is symptomatic of the situation."

"Nowhere does it say that Christ allowed those who were not worthy and did not seek worthiness or forgiveness the same blessings that those who did do what was required received."

"I think it’s that you are choosing to separate yourself from her. It is her decision to marry in the temple. Your choices separate you from the temple."

"the Lee guy from the MMM argued to his deathbed (if I get the facts wrong, I am just arguing a point) that he was justified in killing those pioneers. Should he have full access to the rituals because he felt like he was acting with integrity?"

"I’m not sure I believe your assertion that you have found peace. I hate to point out the obvious but your very presence commenting on this blog is a good indication that you haven’t."

"There seems to be an intentional naivete, a willful simplicity about how you understand love and family which allows, indeed, causes you to think you see a contradiction where others do not."

"You seem to like to put this issue in the darkest, most insulting light. That is my point. You could choose to see it as a positive expression of deep personal conviction, but instead you let yourself be insulted and excluded."

Today I am the weeping Mormon. I see the Mormon circle and it's beauty--I see its exclusivity. We like to believe that someone is being excluded because they choose to remove themselves through sin. Our Savior never let sin stop him from holding one of his sheep close to his bosom. We don't know what sin or righteousness resides in others' hearts. In reality we are excluding people because they are different. We leave them out because we do not understand.

Today I hear these stories, and I wish to be a part of their circle. A circle of integrity, of questioning, of questing. I admire their great souls, stretched large with travail and heartbreak. I wish in my weeping to share a bit of the pain. I wish you to hear their words and feel their humanity and their longing.

Johnny writes:

The most valuable thing I learned from being Mormon was the experience of losing it. Honestly, it is the deepest pain I have ever gone through. If God asked me to do it again, I would plead for him to rip out my finger nails one by one instead. I feel the angst that Satre’s protagonist in his novel Nausea felt. “Then the Nausea seized me, I dropped to a seat, I no longer knew where I was; I saw the colours spin slowly around me, I wanted to vomit. And since that time, the Nausea has not left me, it holds me.”

I don’t know of anyone else who has has experienced this the same way, and if I do, they have never actually told me. Emerging from that has taken a lot of courage, and I feel like I can face existential struggles with more strength then I ever had in the past. Also, choosing to leave went against everything that my underlying psychological desires would have led me to. Thus, I feel like I can say that I don’t believe things based upon purely psychological motivations.

I know it sounds strange to say that the most valuable experience I gained from Mormonism was leaving it, but for the first time I took a step in the dark and that was a defining moment for me

Mormons take this god and goddess business seriously-–every one of us is a literal child of god and are therefore godlings, beings of Godly potential.


matt thurston said...

Wonderful post, BiV. I weep with you, both for the beautiful and the ugly.

Thank you for turning me on to so many wonderful comments around the 'nacle.

AmyB said...

Breathe. In . . . out . . . This is what I need to do now as a wave of sadness washes over me. I see this as a call to enlarge my circles of compassion and care to be as inclusive as possible.

Thank you.

JohnR said...

Thank you, BiV. I'm continually in awe of how these arrangements of pixels on a screen can create meaningful connections between flesh and blood human beings. I'm grateful for the power of blogs to expand our circle to influence and to be influenced.

Johnny said...

Thank you so much. This post was absolutely beautiful. I was touched to be included with this group of people and have always been grateful for your understanding.

Always know that you are welcome in my circle.

Mayan Elephant said...

Wow. Unreal post.

I knew there was at least two people that thought my comments were meaningful, with your quote, I will now count three.

I have thought a ton about my reaction to Toscanos story. It is still painful. I think what was lost on me is that she seems to have found her own way and figured it out quite well, despite being the victim of an awful spiritual assault. if anything, I should have been quite thrilled and not been hung up on the court and the rottenness of those men.

again, thanks for the post.

Bored in Vernal said...

Thanks for that insight. Margaret and Janice's stories have haunted me for years. Especially when I had the opportunity to meet them and see first hand their humility and sincerity. But you're right, the way Margaret has found her way and continued to speak in a beautiful reasoned way is inspiring.

Jo said...

Beautiful, sorrowful. Your writing is amazing.