Talking To My Zelph

My quest for freedom from the LDS religion.

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Location: OA, Offworld

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

A Blessing and a Bishop

Weekend Incident #1:
Another dinner at the in-law's house this past Sunday evening.

Dad-in-law was taking care of his mom, so he wasn't there for dinner. With his absence, mom-in-law called on the next presiding "priesthood" holder, my bro-in-law to call on someone to ask the blessing on the meal.

I'll give you three guesses on who he asked...

If you answered "you, Al", then you would be absolutely correct.

My heart began to race because I knew this would be a moment of truth for me. I could either continue to "play the game" and agree to pray to the mormon god, in whom I no longer have faith, or I could finally draw some sort of line in the proverbial sand.

"I'd rather not, thanks," was my reply.

I must have entered some kind of mindless trance after this, because I don't even remember what his reaction to this was or who he called on after my polite refusal. I just know that inside, I was dancing my own personal jig, because I had finally taken a critical first step in solidifying my resolve against mormonism among my TBM family-in-law and it went better than I'd ever imagined.

But then I expected some sort of inquiry from the ex-bishop bro-in-law, and it never came.


I was sure that he of all people would be the first to come right out with a "what's going on?" either right there in front of everyone, or at least later in a more private conversation, but he never did. I'm left to wonder if he at least asked my wife about the situation, in which case she probably would have admitted to him that I'm now a non-believer in mo-ism.

Weekend Incident #2:
There was a knock on our door yesterday morning. I happened to be the one closest to the door, so I hesitantly approached the peep-hole. (I say "hesitant" because I hate visitors to our door. It's never anyone I care to see, only people trying to sell something or ask me to do something.)

It was the bishop.

I wasn't mentally or emotionally prepared to deal with him, especially if it had anything to do with church stuff, but I mustered a smile and opened the door anyway.

I was very cordial and even invited him inside. He's not a bad fellow, just you know... a bishop!
He was just dropping off a check to my wife to re-imburse her for some flowers she'd bought for a sick ward member.

Oh, and he also had in his hand an invitation to the "trunk or treat" ward activity which takes place tonight.

We made some small talk, but I used every possible distraction (i.e. kids) to leave the room, thus avoiding any serious issues. He did say "we miss you at church" and I just mumbled an "oh, yeah?" because I just couldn't think of anything better to say.

Then he said "we hope to see you soon" and I said, "well, we'll probably see you at the truck or treat tomorrow night."

So, I guess that means we're going tonight.

Crap. It's just too bad my costume doesn't have a mask to conceal my look of complete disdain (is that the right word to use here?) at being there.

Maybe it's not too late to change my costume and I could go as Satan. Would that send the right message?

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Halloween Hijinx

Halloween has always been my favorite holiday.

The concept of this being the one day of the year I can dress however I want and basically play make believe like a kid again, with little or no worry of facing the ridicule of others, is very appealing to me.

My love of Halloween has thus been incorporated into my family life. My wife and I started out with costumes that complemented each other, then as we started having kids, we started to expand our costume "themes." So far, it's worked out very well and we've disguised ourselves as superheroes, cartoon characters, and action figures. The kids are still young enough to readily agree to our suggestions, although I know the day of their creative independance is just over the horizon and they'll start to have their own ideas for costumes.

This year, I'm facing a dilemma of sorts. In the past, we've gone to the ward for their "trunk or treat" activity, then hit a few houses in the neighborhood before calling it a night. Now that I've taken some steps to distance myself from church activity, I'm forced to decide our course of action for the holiday.

Do we adhere to tradition and mingle with the ward folks, or do we just hit the houses in our quest for cavities? A part of me doesn't mind going to the ward activity, but another part of me is screaming in vehement opposition to that idea. What message will I be sending if we show up in the ward parking lot? As far as I know, the majority of the ward remains unaware of my apostasy, so I'm predicting I'll have to face some questions and/or comments about my church attendance (or lack thereof) and that's not something I care to deal with.

And by appearing, does that in any way convey the notion that I continue to endorse the church in any way? I'm sure the bishop will be there and I'll then be forced to talk to him, even if only for a brief moment. I haven't spoken with him since this whole mess began. I can only imagine what comment he'll have for me (if anything at all.)

I have a dozen scenarios swirling around in my head and I'm trying to predict which is the more likely to occur and base my decision on that.

The safe thing to do would be to make other plans for trick or treating.
Or let the wife and kids go to the trunk or treat without me.
Or just go, grit my teeth and bite my tongue the whole time we're there.

Hell, I just want the candy.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Another Damn Sunday Dinner

In my wife's family, it has become customary to gather at her parent's house every Sunday evening for dinner. It's an open invitation to us and to my wife's siblings and our respective families. Sometimes we make other plans or are stuck at home with sick kids, but we usually end up going.

At first, I thoroughly enjoyed these weekly reunions. My wife's family is very friendly and they all get along very well. This is something I never really had growing up, so I found it refreshing to spend time with an actual "family" once in awhile.

My relationship with the in-laws has always been amiable. They're your typical, family-oriented, kind and loving mormon family.

And therein lies the problem.

Now that I've become a non-believer, I've found spending time with them almost unbearable. Like most TBM families, THEIR ENTIRE LIVES revolve around the church and thus church topics continually dominate EVERY conversation!

I stay at the dinner table long enough to inhale my food, then conveniently find a reason to leave the room. I have to, for the sake of my own sanity.

Now that I am aware of the truth behind mormonism, I find all the talk about temple work, church callings, patriachal blessings, blah blah blah absolutely sickening. It just turns my stomach.

Now, I'd like to point out that my parents-in-law are in fact aware of my situation. They know I no longer believe in the church and thankfully they haven't seen fit to call me out on the carpet for it. They really are great people and I know they still consider me a part of the family, but I can't help but think I've lost some of their respect. I'm sure that in their eyes, I've somehow abandoned my wife with regards to celestial glory and perhaps I'm even leading her down to the very bowels of hell itself.

My siblings-in-law (wife's brother and sister) on the other hand, are still unaware of my apostasy, as far as I know. I don't mind telling everyone about my change of religious beliefs, but I really have no idea of how to go about bringing up that kind of subject. I keep hoping that one of them will notice I'm no longer wearing the "magic underwear", temple garments and make some sort of inquiry about it, so I can then openly admit "yeah, I no longer believe in all that mystical mumbo jumbo anymore." That should invoke some wide-eyed looks from the faithful zombies! (Then they just might be tempted to eat my brains, though, so it may behoove me to just keep my mouth shut.)

And so that's what I'm forced to do...just be quiet as I listen to the endless ramblings about church and all that it entails. What other option do I have?

I don't care to initiate any kind of argument or heated debate, but I know that once I make that vocal admission, especially in that kind of setting, I'll be facing a form of interrogation. At least, that's the scenario I've envisioned. Maybe it wouldn't be all that bad. Maybe we could all keep getting along just as well as we always have...but things would change between us...they'd have to.

So, in the meantime, I'll maintain the status quo: showing up for dinner, help to set the table, try to keep all the kids in line (my own as well as the growing mob of nieces and nephews), shovel in a few mouthfuls of whatever-it-is-we're-eating-that-week, and politely excuse myself to the family room where I can watch The least until someone else comes into the room. The Simpsons are frowned upon in that household.

Sunday, bloody Sunday indeed.

Friday, October 20, 2006

The Agnostic Missionary

My mother labeled me a "missionary" last night.

I believe my exact reaction was: "huh?"

We were speaking via telephone and I had somehow steered our conversation to the reasons behind my apostasy from the LDS faith, which to her may have sounded like I was preaching my own brand of anti-mormon gospel.

"You're like a missionary in that you're trying to convert other people to your way of thinking."

(Just for the record, I did not serve a 2 year mission for the mormon church. Instead, I opted to serve my country for 3 1/2 years of active duty - both overseas and within CONUS. I have several close friends who served missions though, most of which left the church long before I even started questioning it.)

Well, I suppose that to a certain degree, mom had a point.

I responded thusly:
"It's not like I talk to just anybody about my beliefs, mom. The only people I've really discussed these issues with are you, my wife and Lynn (my sister). I don't tell people to think like me, I'm only trying to make the point that there is more to church history than what we've been given as members. We're given the "official" version of the history and never told that there's another side of it. All I'm asking is for you to take an honest look at this other information and make an informed, rational decision as to whether or not you want to keep believing in the church."

"So you haven't even talked to your father about this?"

Yep, good old dad. My parents divorced when I was but a wee lad and while I've tried to maintain a good relationship with him, he's moved around a lot and doesn't spend much time with me. He was excommunicated from the church years ago but fought his way back into it, so he's obviously a dedicated follower. On the rare occasions I can get him on the phone, all he seems able to talk about it is all the temple work he's been doing. Ugh. It makes me sick to think I used to participate in all that necromancing hogwash.

"Well, sort of. I mentioned that I was thinking about leaving the church but he must have thought I was kidding because he treated it like it was a joke."

I'm really not sure how my dad would take such news if I assured him I was serious about it. I don't think he'd disown me or anything, although his mother sure would. If I ever dared admit my complete lack of faith in the church to good ol' grandma, only one of us would leave the room alive. She'd either have a heart attack right then and there or get grampa's hunting rifle and shoot me on the spot. Blood Atonement in action.

There are only a handful of people in my life that are fully aware of the about face I've taken concerning my religious beliefs. At least, those whom I've spoken to directly about it. A couple of my close friends, and my immediate family members. Surprisingly, my wife had mentioned it to our Bishop, his First Councelor as well as to her very active parents. This came as a surpise to me when she told me about it since I hadn't gotten a call from the Bish, or her dad (who, at the time, was also a Bishop). Apparently, she'd asked the bishop to just leave me alone as I worked through it. (So that's why the Home Teachers stopped calling to make appointments to come over!)

So I've managed to avoid any serious discussions (interrogations?) with anyone outside my immediate family and dodged the bullet of a "court of love" thus far, but I know my luck won't last too much longer. I don't know, maybe the bishop just doesn't want to have to deal with me right now and he'll leave it all up to his successor.

I went ahead and composed a letter detailing my unbelief. I addressed it "Dear Friends and Family" but have yet to mail it to anyone. It was more of an exercise than a real desire to spread the news of my "falling away." It helps to just get some of this baggage off my shoulders, either by talking about it to someone willing to listen or to write about it. (Hence this blog.)

Even though my mom didn't ask me what I currently believe in, I went ahead and told her anyway. I consider myself an agnostic. I can't find an explaination plausible enough to make me believe that this world and this life is all just a manifestation of chance. There simply must be a higher power and intelligent design behind it all. But who has the truth? All religions claim to have it, but they can't all be right. So I don't think any of them are. There may be elements of truth scattered amoung them, but the "we are the one and only true church on the face of the earth" claim is at best, ridiculous.

But I guess that's just the agnostic missionary in me talking.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Road To Recovery

I am a Mormon.

Technically, that is.

I haven't attended church for over a year and I no longer have a "testimony" of its truthfulness, assuming I ever really had one in the first place.

My name is still on the membership records of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, although I harbor designs of resignation. I'm hoping to beat the Bishop and/or Stake President to the punch, since I'd rather "quit" the church than allow them to "fire" me a' la ex-communication.

After countless hours of research into church history and soul searching, I reached a critical point in my spirituality and took a much needed inventory of my beliefs. Everything I once considered "truth" was called into question and most, if not all, of it failed the polygraph miserably.

Deciding I could no longer live a lie, I confessed my unbelief to my wife, who was upset at first, but who has remained unconditionally supportive of me ever since. She still believes in all of it, despite my initial (and awkward) attempts to explain the reasons for my apostasy. She still wears the "sacred, not secret" temple garments and has given me a weak promise of someday reading some of the materials I have suggested.

That day has not yet come and I must accept the possibility that it may never come. I cannot force my unbelief upon her, since she has so willingly embraced the religion of her parents (which I did as well, although to a lesser extent. My family was never the "hard core" household in our local ward by any stretch.)

It was never my intention to discover the awful truth behind mormonism, at least not at first. I tripped on a website and fell facefirst into the awful mess that Joseph Smith left behind as part of his "legacy." Only then were my eyes opened to the things that have been kept from me all these years as a member of the "one true church."

To this day, the church wants to pretend these horrible truths don't exist. Officially, they either sidestep the issue, or attempt to wave them away with a curt "so what?"

I refuse to accept such pat answers, thankyouverymuch.

I am a Mormon.

But I am in recovery.

This is my journey.