Talking To My Zelph

My quest for freedom from the LDS religion.

My Photo
Location: OA, Offworld

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Overstepping The Bounds

Ah, you gotta love the in-laws!

I didn't really think that my mother-in-law would actually follow through with her offer to come over to our house early on a Sunday morning in order to help get our three children ready for the 9 a.m. block of church meetings.

I guess I thought perhaps my wife would have informed her that such action would be completely unnecessary.

Sunday morning. 8 a.m.


I was sleeping on the couch in the front room (the kids had all crawled into our bed over the course of the night, thus edging me out.)

I start to peek out the front window to see just who the hell had the nerve to come calling this early on a Sunday, and my wife comes down the hallway and says "it's probably my mom."

Oh, right. Because she feels like it's become her responsibility to get the kids up and dressed and ready for church now. Being the apostate that I am now, I'm no longer capable of assisting my wife with that chore.

Needless to say, I wasn't very happy with it.

Fortunately, my wife and two of the three kids were feeling under the weather, so church attendance that day wasn't even an option. I went back to bed for an hour, hoping my mother-in-law would just go away. I like her well enough - I really do - but she was overstepping her bounds here.

She didn't leave until 10:00.

I tried my best to just stay out her way because I knew it would be obvious that I wasn't happy with her visit.

Hell, I guess I'll have to make a stand here and inform her that her "labor of love" just isn't necessary.

What's the best way to say that?

Conversations With My Father

As stated in my previous post, it seems as though my dad has disowned me because of my apostasy from the LDS church.

He called last Wednesday night to check up on me (he calls about once every other week just to see how things are going), and the conversation went something like this:

[I answer the phone] Hello?

Is this my son?

I sure hope so because I'm wearing his underwear (this is my attempt at humor...pathetic, I know.)

What do you mean "underwear"? Where are your [temple] garments?

I don't wear those anymore, dad.

Why not?

Well, I've resigned my membership from the church.

Really? So what are you going to be now? Catholic? Jewish?

I consider myself an agnostic right now.

Well, at least you're not an athiest. Of course, we can't spell either one, can we?
(And that was his attempt at humor.)

(He wasn't really taking any of this very seriously and acted like it was all a joke.)

He changed the subject to the lives of my siblings (his other estranged children) briefly, but I steered the conversation back to the original topic).

Doesn't what I said shock or surprise you in any way dad?

Not really.

Why not?

You're old man is smarter than you give him credit for, son.
(Um, after what he said later, I think I may have to argue this statement.)

So you've really quit?

Yep. I mailed off my resignation letter to the bishop and stake president last month and the bishop has written me a letter in response to it, so I know it's being processed.

So you haven't gotten the confirmation [that I'm no longer a member] letter yet?

Not yet, but I expect it sometime this month or next.

(This is when he suddenly got serious about the whole affair.)

What about your wife?

Well, she's choosing to retain her membership for the time being, but who knows?

Who's going to bless the baby?
(My wife is expecting our fourth child in June.)

I don't really see the point of doing that.

And will the kids be baptized into the church?

Not if I have anything to say about it.

Why not?

Because I want their lives to be based on reality, dad, not superstitious myths and lies.

Lies? What lies?

Oh, I don't know...the church is full of them. Garments for one. They don't really protect you from harm you know. If that was true, we'd never hear about missionaries being killed or raped. It's just a myth.

(He starts to get aggravated here because he must think I'm "attacking" his faith.)

They do so protect you! I've put my fingers through the holes of a uniform worn by someone who was shot up with an AK-47 and didn't have a scratch on him because of his garments!

(Okay, I'll have to interject again here to explain something about my father. Yes, he was in the military for several years...I won't say which branch...but he's never been in combat and yet he tells everyone that he has. On many occasions I've seen him embellish facts and transform the truth when talking to people. He actually convinces himself to believe things that just aren't true, so while he might believe the story about bullet-proof garments, I can't help but feel that he's turning a faith-promoting-rumor into a personal experience that just isn't true.)

Well, maybe that was a miracle dad, but people from all different faiths have personal stories of miracles, so your argument doesn't prove the church is true.

(And here's where he starts to get mean.)

The Dark Side has control over you. You'll be at fault for leading your own children down to hell unless you baptize them.

(And...this is where I lost my patience with his "holier-than-thou-because-we-belong-to-the-only-true-church" attitude.)

Don't you dare tell me how to raise my children. You have no right to get all high-and-mighty with me when you were never there for me! (Okay, so that was a cheap shot, attacking his abilities as a father like that. It's mostly true, though. My parents divorced when I was young and I didn't see much of him, nor did he keep up with his Child Support payments, but I've given him the benefit of the doubt over the years and assumed that he did the best he could.)

(The conversation was over at this point...he wouldn't let me talk - and even if he had, I doubt he would listen to reason - and I was yelling at him.)

We have nothing more to say until you escape from Satan's influence. Good day sir! [He hangs up on me.]

So there you have it. Quite possibly the last conversation I'll ever have with my father. I guess I thought he might be okay with the whole thing because he still accepts my brothers and sister for who they are despite the fact that none of them have anything to do with the church. Maybe the difference is I'm the only one of his four kids who has actually taken that final, drastic step to actually resign. That probably struck a nerve.

Friday, January 19, 2007

The First Casualty

While conducting my research into the foundational claims of the LDS church, I'd often take some time to read up on all the personal experiences that other people have had when leaving the mormon fold. I've read many of the stories that are posted on the RFM (Recovery From Mormonism) board and I try to keep up on a few blogs that are kept by former mormons (see those to which I've linked).

From what I read, I got the impression that resigning from the church would be a very difficult and stressful endeavor. Many people who leave are subsequently alienated by their TBM family members and friends. Marriages end (I read somewhere that 8 out of 10 marriages end in divorce when one spouse leaves the church while the other remains a member). People have even lost their jobs when they finally garnish the courage to stand up and point out all the many problems with the church (um, can you say "BYU faculty?")

So when I finally decided I was going to make an official exit from the church, I was expecting the worst.

While I didn't think my wife would actually leave me because of it, I was mentally and emotionally preparing myself for such a possibility. At the very least, I expected to be interrogated by my in-laws.

And I naturally assumed that my ward bishop and/or his counsellors would do everything in their power to convince me to keep the faith and retain my membership.

None of that happened. Almost everyone in my immediate circle of family and friends now know about my apostasy from "the one true church" and up until this past week, I hadn't been faced with any sort of alienation, persecution, or even questioning.
My wife is still struggling with my decision, but our marriage is in no immediate danger (knock on wood.) Even the in-laws are still treating me like an actual member of the family, instead of placing any amount of distance between us.

The bishop, while obviously in disagreement with my choice, is honoring my request for name removal from the records of the church and didn't bother to schedule any sort of "court" on my behalf. He's been pretty understanding about the whole thing.

Wow, I must be pretty lucky to not have to deal with all the hardship that others have gone through when they left the church.

And then my dad called me on Wednesday night. I'll save the bulk of the conversation for another post, but the short story is this:

He's disowned me as his son.

I consider this the first real relationship casualty since my departure from the LDS religion.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Inappropriate Proposal?

Since my exodus from the LDS church, one of my concerns has been breaking the news of my apostasy to family and friends. Informing my immediate family and circle of friends was simple enough, since many of them have distanced themselves from the church as well (but none of them have bothered to make an official resignation, as I have), but for my extended family, especially my in-laws, I didn't know how to best declare my change of beliefs.

I guess I won't have to worry about that anymore though, because yesterday my wife told me that everyone in her immediate family is now aware of the situation. Her brother, who at one time was the bishop of his ward, was apparently in the stake president's office when he received and read my letter of resignation. My wife also did me a favor by notifying her parents and my immediate family-in law now know where I stand. They might ask me about it at some point, but then again, they might not. My primary concern is that I'll be treated differently at family gatherings/functions, but so far, nothing out of the ordinary has occurred.

With the new year came a change of meeting schedule within the church. Our ward changed from the 1 to 4 block of meetings to the 9 to 12 block. I've always maintained that nine o'clock in the morning is way too early for church, especially for families with young children to wake up and get ready for the meetings.

Although I've been able to keep my wife and kids from attending church for the past few months, she told me on Saturday night that she wanted to go to her meetings. I assumed she'd leave the kids with me and just go alone, but that wasn't the case. While speaking to her mother on Saturday, she must have mentioned that it would be a struggle to get the kids up and dressed in time for the 9 o'clock meeting (they usually have the sacrament meeting first at our ward), so my mom-in-law graciously offered to come over and help get them ready for church.

My immediate thought was: WTF?!

I know she means well, but is she just assuming that since I'm no longer a TBM, I wouldn't help my wife with this endeavor?

Of course, I don't want my kids anywhere near a mormon church because I don't want them indoctrinated in that irrational belief system, and I have made my opinion on that painfully clear to my wife, but she maintains that they'll be better off with "the church" in their lives.

So I guess I'm the bad guy in this little play.

I know that my wife, and my mother-in-law, and the bishop, and whoever else is even remotely involved with our family is just doing what they think is best for us and our children, but you know what...SO AM I! As their father, I think I have more than just a passive opinion in what our kids are exposed to, and I intend to fully exercise my rights as their caregiver and protector.

As it turned out, nobody went to church yesterday anyway, since my oldest child came down with a fever and a rash, so I didn't have to set fire to any bridges over the situation. I can already smell a hint of smoke, so it's only a matter of time before the situation progresses to something more uncomfortable.

Even after some deliberation over the matter, my wife weren't able to come to any solid agreement as to what we'll do with the kids if we continue to maintain separate and opposing religious beliefs. The best scenario I could come up with is to wait until each child reaches the "age of accountability" (age 8 - which is too young to fully understand religious topics, IMO) and give them an honest-to-god choice of church membership. I told my wife I'd allow her (and/or anyone else she wanted) to make their pitch FOR the church, then I'd take my turn to pitch AGAINST the church, then allow them to make the decision for themselves. It's honest, it's balanced, it's fair.

Well intentions aside, I think my mother-in-law overstepped her bounds somewhat by offering to come over and help with the kids early on a Sunday morning. Thanks anyway "mom", but I think I can handle it.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

The Bishop's Response

Since I never called him back, our ward bishop mailed me a letter stating that he would honor my request for name removal from the records of the LDS church and that I would "not be required to attend a Church Council" (aww, how NICE of him to advise me that I wasn't required to do something I already know I don't HAVE to do.)

He then apologized for visiting which he thinks I found offensive. Man, I said right there in my letter to him that I wasn't "offended" by anyone in the ward. I simply asked that he call ahead to schedule an appointment if he wanted to come see us. I don't care who it is, I can't stand unannounced "pop-in" visits to our house. I suppose I'll have to write him back to clarify my position concerning this.

Overall, it was a very kind and compassionate letter. He didn't make any attempt at changing my mind about leaving the church other than suggesting that I listen to the Holy Ghost, since he is the teacher of all truth (despite any scientific evidence that disproves many, if not all, of Joseph Smith's claims).

He went on to say that I was welcome at all church activities and that he has fond memories of spending time with us at our home. (My wife was the Relief Society President for a couple of years and the Bishop and his wife would come over and conduct business every Sunday night.)

He informed me that he asked the Elder's Quorum to remove my name from Home Teaching lists, but asked that my wife be allowed visits from her Visiting Teachers. Hell, what do I say to that? In my resignation letter, I stated that she wished to remain a member. Even though I think it would be best (for her, for our marriage, and for our children) that she come around to my way of thinking when it comes to accepting Mormonism as a fraud, I won't force it on her. Of course I'll "allow" her to receive visits from the Visiting Teachers, if that's what she wants.

All I've asked of my wife is to read two books with the hopes that she'll see things as I now do, but she has yet to do so. I think she's just too afraid to know the truth, so she's happy to keep her head buried in the sand. I promised her that if she would just read these two books ("How Good is Good Enough?" by Andy Stanley - a booklet explaining that salvation comes by God's grace alone, and not of our works as taught by the LDS church...and "An Insider's View of Mormon Origins" by Grant Palmer - an awesome book that reveals the true history of Mormonism and of its founder, Joseph Smith, not just the sanitized version the church promotes) and that if she chose to remain an active member of the church, then I would give her my full support. (I would make a serious attempt at supporting her, anyway...I would really try.) But she won't read them. She hasn't refused to read them, she actually said that she would, but she just hasn't yet.

In the meantime, our marriage has begun to show signs of strain. The dynamic of our relationship has been forever altered. But you know, I think that was inevitable anyway. Even if I hadn't decided that the church wasn't true and excused myself from it, something else would have happened to cause an evolution of our relationship...that's part of marriage. We're no longer the lovey-dovey newlyweds we once were (although I think we were fortunate to have that phase of our marriage last several years) and the normal stresses of life have just sort of happened.

We'll see where this fork in the road takes us.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Saturday's Warrior

The Bishop called on Saturday night.

I looked at the caller ID, saw that it was him, and ignored it. I figured he was calling for my wife.


He left the following message on our answering machine: "Hi Al, Bishop Sinestro here. I got your letter [of resignation] and I'm sorry that you feel that way. I'm sorry if my recent visits to your home have offended you in any way. I just have a few questions for you, so please call me..."

Well, that was about it. One of the first paragraphs in my resignation letter expressed the fact that I wasn't offended by anyone in the church, so I guess he was referring to a later paragraph in which I asked him to call ahead and make an appointment before just stopping by for a visit.

I haven't yet returned his call. I just don't see the need to do so. My letter stated that I wouldn't be attending any form of "court" and that my decision was final, so I don't know if he's looking to talk me out of resigning or what.

I dunno...should I call him back?