Tuesday, July 27, 2010

How I became Mormon....part 3

When Brent and I left that meeting we were both in agreement that the church leadership had overstepped their bounds. They didn't have the right to determine our piano teacher. It was a few short weeks later that we were summoned to another meeting. This time I was to face the entire elder board, which consisted of about 16 men, both vocational pastors and lay leaders. In the meantime, the pastors kept busy by interviewing my friends, asking them if I had ever said anything to them that could be deemed suspect regarding my beliefs on Mormonism, or my friendship with Neil. They really couldn't find anything except the fact that I spoke of him highly and had given him a yearly Christmas gift.

They began the meeting by reading a passage for the purpose of "setting the tone". The passage they chose was one on church discipline. I knew from that moment on I was in step two of the excommunication process. I was flabbergasted. In the fifteen years I had served at that church, I had not so much as even given the appearance of sin. Why were such drastic measures being taken?

The meeting itself was humiliating. The men were hostile and treated me as someone unworthy of even decent kindness. Every innocent action or word spoken was scrutinized and looked at with the most vile slant possible. I was asked to defend how I could justify allowing a Mormon to mentor my son. It didn't matter how many times I said he was teaching piano, not theology; they still disapproved. Next I was asked to defend my interest in Mormonism. I didn't want this fight. I wasn't even sure Mormonism WAS true. I explained to them that Brent had told me to return the materials and stop studying, and I had submitted. Still they were unsatisfied. The meeting went on for about three hours, with the conclusion that I was to renounce anything to do with Mormonism, including taking the children to piano, or they would go forward with my excommunication. I was frustrated beyond belief.

Whenever I tried calling a friend to talk about the situation, they would tell me that the elders had already contacted them, and they were not allowed to discuss the situation with me. I was also told if I needed to talk about it, they were instructed to tell me the pastors were available. I was allowed to speak to no one else. I felt trapped. In the meantime, the pastors summoned me to another meeting. I had no intention of repeating round one, and said that my position had not changed and refused to attend. Brent, however, grew frustrated with my inability to say Mormonism was false and decided to attend the meeting himself.

At that meeting, Brent's leadership of our home was called into question. He was even advised to disable my van, so that I could not take the children to piano. They told him, it sounded to them as if the Mormon in Conway was leading our home. Brent came home from that meeting more hostile than ever, and was now was in full agreement with the leadership.

I was under immense pressure. My whole life was falling apart, and I wasn't even sure it was for a good reason. Brent went to work in silence, and then came home and yelled at me for not submitting to the elders. When I went to church, I was not allowed to participate in any of the ministries. I was whispered about and avoided. I had finally reached my breaking point.

I wrote a local Mormon Bishop who had heard about my situation and asked the piano teacher if there was anything he could do to help. I told him in the letter that I had so many questions and wished I could speak to him about them. I knew I wouldn't be permitted to, so just asked for him to pray for me to have wisdom. Brent had been going through my computer files because he found the file of the letter and went ballistic. I was now to give him my email password so he could check all of my computer correspondence. He also would not allow me to have a phone conversation without him listening in.

I was falling apart. There were days I did not feel I could continue. I went about the house barely functioning, superficially going through the motions with the children's school work, then going to my bed to cry. Several times I came close to suicide, but thoughts of my children kept me from following through.

I tried explaining to my husband how desperate and alone I felt. I even told about wishing to die. He responded by saying my sin brought all of those feelings upon my head. If I would simply repent, it would all go away. I knew I was completely alone. My husband wouldn't help, my friends wouldn't speak to me, and I wasn't sure which God was real, the one from my church, or the one from Neil's.

My one lifeline was a woman Neil introduced me to from his ward, Vicki Lorimer. She must have sensed how desperate I felt, because she would email daily checking on my state of mind. Because she knew Brent was monitoring my emails, she would often put the subject heading as Scrapbooking, or some other girly thing, so as to not bring it to his attention. Those emails helped me feel as if there was another human somewhere who cared about me. I'm not sure if I could have gotten through those months without her.

Things were now getting so tense at church, that I refused to attend. I couldn't bear it any longer. Brent continued to attend and take the children, meeting with the pastors regularly about my "lack of repentance". One Wednesday evening, Brent took the three oldest children up to church. I kept our two year old home, who had a 102 degree fever. A few minutes after Brent pulled out of the driveway, three pastors (one full time pastor and two lay leaders) showed up at my door. They were there to give me one final chance to repent.

So, while trying to comfort a very sick toddler, I spent the next two hours again having to defend my desire to study Mormonism. I realized throughout the evening, to my surprise, that every time they brought up some Mormon "heresy", I had a response as to why it could be a true doctrine. I was honest with them that I wasn't sure what was true, but did feel I had the right to figure that out for myself. They strenuously disagreed and sincerely could not understand my refusal to submit. I was handed a letter that told me I had until the following Tuesday to repent and submit to the elder board, admitting Mormonism was a false religion or my excommunication would go public.

I didn't know what to do. I just couldn't agree to what they required. One afternoon, while Brent was at work, Vicki called and explained to me about unrighteous dominion. She helped me understand that it would not be a sin for me to disobey Brent and figure out what I believed. I knew I couldn't continue in the state I was in anyway without having a nervous breakdown, so I came to a decision.

I announced that if I was going to get in trouble for Mormonism anyway, I might as well study it and figure out if it was true. He was not pleased, to say the least. I was told it was time to make a decision- him or Mormonism, because he could not stay in our marriage as it currently stood. I was angry. I told him time after time that I wouldn't even be able to join the Mormon church without his permission. I wasn't asking to be a member, I just wanted to figure out what I believed. He still patently refused to allow me to study.

I had submitted to him our entire marriage, even obeying when he told me what I was allowed to watch or what I could eat. I had been a constant support to him whether I agreed with his decisions or not. The one time I needed to disobey for the sake of my conscience and well being, he couldn't support me..

We agreed to a divorce. I was to file, because divorce is forbidden at our church and I was getting excommunicated anyway. This way the children could still attend, while I figured out what I believed. Shortly after our agreement, my excommunication went public. At my former church, excommunications were finalized in front of the entire congregation. The pastor spent about twenty minutes speaking about me, telling the congregation I was under the influence of a Mormon male and had abandoned my family. They were told that the elders had loved and pleaded with me to return, but I had refused. Their instructions were to now treat me as an unbeliever. Any communication they had with me should be designed only to call me to repentance. I was ostracized.

A few weeks later, Brent moved out. For the first time in over eighteen years, I was alone. I felt that way too. Terrified. I had no means of financial support, four children I loved more than life itself, and no idea which theology was true. I think if I had an idea of who God really was it would have helped. At least it would have given me some direction in where to place my trust. At that moment I wasn't sure who to trust. For almost three years I had prayed and studied faithfully (until forbidden). The missionaries constantly assured me if I prayed sincerely, God would tell me what was true. I could not understand why He hadn't answered. I was as sincere as was possible for any human to be. I began to wonder if there was there something wrong with me. Was I not good enough? Was I committing some sin I was unaware of that kept Him from answering me? I didn't have any answers, and I really needed some fast.

Click here for part 3.5.


jaradoron said...

Can't wait to read the rest! Thanks for sharing.

Jennifer said...

Thank you for all your time and effort in sharing this. I think you are a talented writer, by the way. You completely left me in suspense! I am really looking forward to the next part.