Rage Against the Machine

Last week, in the middle of the Supreme Court hullabaloo, I took a break from my computer and walked down the street to get lunch at a fast food taco place in my neighborhood.  I put in my order and stepped out of the way to wait my turn when suddenly there was a young man in my space.  He stepped toward me and put a piece of paper in my line of sight and said, “Hey, this is for you.”

I flinched.  I was startled by the lack of introduction or transition of any kind and tried to avert my eyes, but then realized what I was seeing was a glossy professionally printed pamphlet with a picture of Jesus and the letters “LDS” across the top. “Oh,” I said, placing my hand to my throat and catching my breath.  “No, thank you.”

The man gave me an expensively orthodontured smile and a quick nod of his blonde and blue-eyed head and went out the front door.  For a second I almost went after him.  I didn’t know what I would say.  “Don’t do that!”?  How could I possibly make him understand why?  Did I even understand why? “Hey, haven’t you heard all the women in the nation are ‘triggered’ right now? Well, we are.  So don’t jump out from behind Coke machines and Guerilla-Jesus them, maybe?”

Then, and every day since this incident at the taco store, I have returned to this thing that happened to me many years ago.  It was the summer of 1997, before my 20th birthday.  I was working on campus at the art museum and I had walked across campus to get change for the gift shop cash register.  I was heading back and a man in a beater car pulled up next to me with the window down and asked me what time it was.  I told him and he thanked me, but didn’t drive off.  I didn’t think anything about it when I walked away but quickly realized he was following me.  I picked up my pace, but before I could go far he plowed the car into a driveway in front of me, blocking my path.  His window was still down and he was yelling at me.  His penis was out of his shorts and in his hand.  With his other hand he held up a pornographic magazine and asked me what I thought about it.

At the time I joked, “I think it was a photo of Pamela Anderson.  That was the worst part.”  But that wasn’t the worst part.  The worst part was looking up at the parking lot in broad daylight on a beautiful summer afternoon and seeing lots of cars but no people.  The worst part was knowing that my path forward was blocked and that if I ran back the way I came he would be able to follow me with his car and overtake me before I could get away down a path the car couldn’t follow. The worst part was knowing that this could and might get a lot worse, and that I wouldn’t be able to do anything about it.

It was such a long time ago. I can still remember what I was wearing. I remember some general things about what he and his car looked like, and I remember feeling a sense of rising panic. I don’t remember deciding what I was going to do, but I do remember hopping over the hood of his car and running toward the stairs between the library and the Behavioral Science Building that led up to the art museum.  I remember yelling over my shoulder as I ran, “You are sick! You need to get help!” and then later thinking, did I really say that? I’m so sure he went straight to a phone book to find a therapist, you Dork.

Maybe if you know me and you love me, you are thinking ‘she got out of the situation because she kept her head. She is smart. She is X and that that protected her from winding up like one of the girls who are Y.’

No.  Wrong.  I wasn’t physically harmed because I was lucky.  That was all.  But he still got what he wanted from me.  He got off on frightening me.  If he wanted to shock me with the photo or just scare me by reminding me that he could hurt me if he wanted to, it worked.  It scared me.  More than twenty years later, I picture that empty parking lot and it still scares me.

I’ve heard a lot of stories this week about women who did not report assaults or harassment in their past, and I did not intend to report this incident.  But I got back to work and the security guard, who was watching the shop for me while I was gone, immediately saw from my face that something was wrong.  I told her what had happened as a friend, not really thinking about it anything coming from it.  She was the one who called the police.  She had to; it was her job.  They came and took a statement.  A week later, an officer came back with postcards of photos (which I later learned from Harry Bosch novels is called a “six pack”) for me to look at to see if I could identify the man. I told her before we sat down in the main gallery of the museum to talk that I only saw him briefly and wasn’t sure if I would recognize him, but when she laid out the photos I was shocked by my certainty.  There was no doubt in my mind as to which man had exposed himself to me.

The police officer did something like a joyous fist pump and shouted, “Yes! We got him!” I was surprised because I always watched too much TV and expected her to have more of a poker face, but she was elated.  She told me that the same thing had happened to several women on campus and that they now had multiple victims identifying one suspect.

This next part is the hardest part of the story for me, the part that I’ve been grappling with for the past few days. For the next few months, I spoke with the officer a few more times on the phone.  She was always very kind and sympathetic toward me, so much so that when I told her I didn’t want to testify, she just said, “I understand.”  She didn’t even ask me to explain, even though I had prepared an explanation. I didn’t want to testify, because I was afraid. I was afraid that then he would have my name and he would know how to find me.  I was afraid because I figured that there was a low chance that he would get “help” as I had urged him at the time and a high chance he would get no more than slap on the wrist from a judge.  And I was afraid that this was a sick person who was working up the courage to do something much worse than what he had done so far.  And I was in the phone book.  But like I said, she didn’t ask.  She hung up the phone I never heard from her again.

I remind myself now that I was very young when I made this decision.  And that there were several other women who were willing to testify.  My account probably wouldn’t have made a difference, even if it had gone to court, which it probably didn’t.  If it had come down to it, if they had needed me, the officer would have called back and tried to talk me into doing my civic duty, right? But she didn’t.  And maybe that guy did get some help.  Or maybe he didn’t.  Maybe he went on and hurt someone else, even if he didn’t get a second chance to hurt me. I will never know.  I just know that when I see someone like Dr. Christine Blasey Ford tell her story in front of the world, I feel like a coward.  And when I hear other people (men and women) speculate about what she could possibly remember, or how she could possibly still be affected by some bad behavior a few decades later, I shake with rage.

I walked home with my bag of tacos last week with my mind awash in emotions and angry thoughts.  I was still trying to think what I could have told that young man with the rich-people teeth.  The thing that really stuck in my craw was that I had said, “Thank you.”  He frightened me – unintentionally and maybe with good intentions – but he frightened me. And I fucking thanked him!  I’m so programmed to be polite and unburdensome that at forty-one years old I still treat every man I meet with deference and respect even when they get in my face uninvited and ruin my day.

I can’t articulate how angry I am right now.  I can’t articulate to others in my life or even strangers what I need.  I don’t know what to do with all this anger that I am feeling.  And I know it isn’t just women who are angry, so please don’t bother reminding me.  But I also don’t want men to read all these stories about ‘why I never reported’ and get too comfortable with the idea that they have been too sheltered to be an ally, either.  I told the men in my life this story back in the 90s.  I’ve shared many other stories about things that I have happened to me over the years with my partners and male friends.  These are not secrets that the men in the world are just now finding out about; I don’t believe that for a minute.  Many of them seem to be listening with new insight right now, and I am so grateful for that.  Many are not and don’t seem to understand why we are suddenly changing the rules on them.

We aren’t.  Nothing has changed.  But we are angry.  And we are insisting that everyone pay attention.  I am changing one thing, though.  I’m no longer thanking men just for not hurting me.  That part of my life is done

My Pioneer Stock (A Pioneer Day Re-post)

Ever since I left the Mormon Church to join the Church of Sleep-in on Sunday and go to Brunch, I have experienced a significant improvement in quality of life. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t still love my Mormon ancestors. I am particularly proud of the Mormon women. The men did a lot of interesting stuff, and the polygamists are just wacky fun. But the women? The women could give birth in a back room with nothing for pain management but a stick between their teeth and not even wake up the other wives sleeping upstairs. And then they got up and washed the sheets. Those women were ballers.

In honor of Pioneer Day (or, as we heathens call it, Pie and Beer Day), I want to write a brief biography of my Great Great Great Great Grandmother, Phebe Draper Palmer Brown. Phebe was the daughter of William Draper, for whom the town of Draper in Salt Lake County is named (or for her brother William Draper – I have heard it both ways). She was born 1797 in Rome New York. The Drapers moved to Canada when Phebe was a girl and she married her first husband George Palmer at the age of 18. The Drapers joined the LDS church a few years later (though George never did) and Phebe was baptized by Brigham Young. George and Phebe had six children and another on the way when he up and died on her in 1833. She was 38.

Phebe packed up her family and followed the Drapers back to the states. They met up with other Canadian Saints but were driven out of Ohio and then Missouri by Mormon-haters. They eventually settled in Nauvoo, Illinois. She received a patriarchal blessing from Joseph Smith who told her to be good and that she would get another man. This was a little ahead of the polygamy trend, but I don’t think Joseph would have snatched her up in any case. He preferred 14 year-olds who had not yet pushed a half a dozen babies out of their vaginas. Phebe was 40 and she looked like she had pushed two of her seven children out of her eyes.


My sisters and I often joke about having inherited our looks from Phebe.

Phebe worked hard to support her family and I have read she had some talent for nursing. Luckily she wasn’t too good at it, because after Phebe failed to nurse her friend Ann Brown back to health, she married her widower, Ebenezer. That was in 1842. Ann left him with four young children and it just made sense to join forces. He was a looker, also.


The Mormon situation in Illinois was becoming untenable. In 1844 Joseph Smith was killed. In 1846, Phebe and Ebenezer joined the group of Saints who were following Brigham Young (now president of the church) west to the new “Promised Land.” They were passing through Council Bluffs Iowa in July and were met by US soldiers. The war with Mexico was in full swing and the soldiers asked Brigham to give them 500 men to take to California to fight. He complied – hoping to obtain government aid for the migration (because he was a “taker”).

Along with another 550ish Mormons, Ebenezer and Phebe both volunteered – probably to get away from the children. Actually, Phebe’s 14 year-old son Zemira Palmer joined also. They pawned the younger children off on relatives in the wagon train.

What would come to be known as “The Mormon Battalion” marched 2,000 miles from Council Bluffs, Iowa to San Diego, California. Phebe worked as a cook and laundress and Zemira served as a Colonel’s aid. The trek was pretty miserable, by all accounts. They walked through the deserts and mountains… for a year. Phebe was one of only four women who made the entire trip and at 49 she was by far the oldest of the four (the second oldest was 22).

Considering the distance and the difficulty of the terrain, they actually made pretty good time. But by the time they got to San Diego, the war was over and the Battalion was dismissed. (There is one story about a herd of wild cattle attacking the Battalion as they crossed through Arizona, so they did see some action.)

Ebenezer and Phebe were out of money so they re-enlisted for another year. They were sent to Sutter’s Mill and were among the group who found flakes of gold in the American River, a discovery the led to the California Gold Rush. They collected a small amount of gold but then received the call from Brother Brigham. It was time for them to re-join the Saints in Salt Lake City.

On their way back through the California mountains, they were part of the group that discovered the remains of the Donner-Reed party. (I know what you are thinking. “What? Not possible! Was your GGGG Grandmother Forest Gump?” I don’t know how much of it is true. I just know what I have read.) The survivors and rescuers of the Donner Party had been unable to bury the dead due to the ice and snow, so the Mormons stopped and buried all the bodies they could find before pressing on to Salt Lake City.

Phebe, Ebenezer and Zemira arrived in Salt Lake in 1848, at the end of a 3,000 mile journey. Phebe had a mule to ride by then, so that’s nice. They settled in Willow Creek, which would later be renamed as “Draper,” as I mentioned before. Ebenezer became the Postmaster, but he couldn’t read so Phebe (who was well educated for the time) served as Postmistress. She also ran a school for small children. Zemira was sent to work in Orderville, which was Brigham Young’s big communist experiment. Two guesses as to how that turned out.

Unfortunately, Brigham Young wasn’t finished with the Draper-Palmers yet. Brother Brigham told Ebenezer that he wanted him to become a polygamist and have more children. Phebe is said to have approved, and in 1853 and 1854 Ebenezer married two more women. One of them died a decade later, leaving Phebe with yet another brood of small children to raise.

Phebe died in 1879 at the incredible age of 82. (Granted, in the photo she appears to be about 127, and it looks like she made at least part of her 3,000 mile march by walking with her face.) That lady was a stone cold badass, and I’m proud to be her descendant.

Also, in reading up on all of this stuff, something has occurred to me that may be a brilliant bit of insight as to how Mormon services are operated. Perhaps the reason that those damn meetings are three hours long is because it was the only time those poor people got to sit down! It HAD to be as long as they could possibly get away with!

One more thing – this is a letter from Zemira to Phebe from Orderville. I think it is adorable in its presciently passive/aggressive tone, which is still the Mormon modus operandi.  I especially love the way he waves off his inheritance and then signs the letter from “your unworthy son.”

Letter from Zemira Palmer to his mother Phebe Draper Palmer Brown

Cougar Town

On return from a work trip, I was waiting to disembark my plane in Salt Lake City, standing up beneath the overhead bins because I am short and I can.  Suddenly, this tall blonde guy in a bright blue Brigham Young University hat, standing in the aisle and leaning on the seat two rows in front of me, caught my eye.  He gave me a smile and a wink.  I smiled back and then dropped my gaze to peer out the window.  He was young and attractive and I admit that I was fractionally flattered, despite the air of a college sophomore “will-flirt-with-anything-that-moves-because-I-am-so-over-powered-by-hormones-that-they-are-shooting-out-the-ends-of-my-hair” that he distinctly had about him.

Step away from the jail bait!” the angel on my right shoulder blared into my ear through a loud-speaker.  I then made a crooked cognitive connection, remembering that the first time I heard about the TV show called “Cougar Town” I had asked if it was set in Provo, home of the Brigham Young University, Cougars.

A few minutes later I stepped out of the gangway and immediately started scanning the hallway of the airport’s terminal for posted bathrooms signs bearing a skirted figure. I found one, walked in and, with a bag on each shoulder, made an abrupt right turn into the first open stall door that I saw.  There in the stall, less than a foot in front of me, I saw – as if in flashes – a bright blue hat, blonde hair, long legs, feet positioned twice shoulder width apart, and (through the legs) an ample stream pouring confidently into the bowl below.

I leapt backward and spun around, narrowly avoiding becoming wedged in the stall doorway by my carry-on bags.  Convinced that I had walked into the men’s room by mistake and not quite sure what to do about it, I began running around in a small circle doing what I reflectively think of as my “panic dance.”

Unfortunately, this happens to be my go-to reaction in emergencies.  The first time I did the “panic dance” was back in college when a crappy plastic lamp spontaneously combusted and I looked over to see a yellow flame within licking distance of the wood paneling of my apartment wall. I leapt to my feet and ran seven laps in a tight circle because my reptilian brain was telling me, “Maybe this will be helpful!”  Luckily, Demetria was there and she put the fire out. (Firefighting is a hobby of Demetria’s. She keeps a fire extinguisher handy “just in case” and is the only person I know who has used it on more than one occasion.)  I no longer remember how she extinguished the flaming lamp, as my view was blurred by a whirling panic dance sequence, but I remember feeling very thankful someone calm was present.

The panic dance I was doing in the airport bathroom might have been less of a circle.  I was trying to figure out how to get out without being seen, and kept changing my mind between running out the door and running into a stall to hide.  I was also trying to keep the heels of my boots from hitting the tile, so as not to give myself away with my overtly feminine clacky-clacks.  During this time, a cute little blonde in her twenties entered the restroom and, just as I did, turned into the first empty stall. Blue hat. Short hair. Intimidatingly aggressive piss stream. She took in these details and immediately joined me in the panic dance.  She was shaking her hands, I was clutching my bags, and we were both running in a crazy loop trying to figure out what we were going to do, all while Mr. BYU obliviously continued to discharge a bladder’s-worth of recycled root beer into the toilet bowl.

I stopped abruptly. It dawned on me that there were two of us and one of him and the math sobered me.  I turned and walked into an empty stall further down the lane, clacking my heels as loudly as possible, and shut the door behind me.  I hadn’t observed any urinals, and obviously Mr. BYU hadn’t either.  I don’t know why I instantly leapt to the conclusion that I was in the wrong room, but even if I was, the fact that another woman made the same mistake was all I needed to feel okay about the whole thing.

I listened as the guy left and waited to hear if he bumped into anyone on his way out.  But as far as I know, he strolled off without ever realizing he had been in the women’s room.  In fact, if only he had been polite enough to close the door to his stall, it’s possible no one else would have known either.

I saw the student once more before I left the airport.  We were down in baggage claim waiting for the belt to start rolling.  He was talking on his cell and giving a wry smile to another woman no closer to his age than I am.  “Damn,” I thought to myself as the conveyor belt creaked to life.  “It’s like he’s drawn to women by an electro-magnetic force.”

Then I briefly imagined another plot for “Cougar Town,” set Provo and centered around the university life that my friends who attended BYU have described to me.  Basically all of the characters will constantly try to work off their un-used sexual tension by exercising at the gym, reading scriptures by lamp-light, or by both making and eating basket loads of baked goods.

“Nah,” I thought to myself as I tugged my rolly-bag off the belt and toward the airport parking lot.  “No one would ever watch that show.”

Ask an Atheist

Last Thursday (April 18th) was “National Ask an Atheist Day.”  I did not know that was a thing until I ended up getting sucked into a Facebook conversation started by an atheist friend of mine who was soliciting questions.

Most of the questions were some version of “how can you prove that there is no god?”  I was reminded that the way most people define atheism is wildly different than the way that I define it.  I know that language evolves and words come to stand for something far beyond their original definitions.  That is a natural phenomenon of language.  But the words “atheist” and “agnostic” do have simple meanings, and that is important to me.

Here is the origin of the word “atheist:”

And here is “agnostic:”


An atheist is without god.  An agnostic is without knowledge.  That is it.  The way I define my atheism is very much in line with the basic components of the word, and not all the other things that people want to put on top of that simple absence of belief.  I live without a belief in a god.  That is, I do not accept any version of a god that has been presented to me and therefore I do not worship one.  Do I know for certain that there is no god or anything that might take the place of a creator? No, I don’t. I accept that I don’t know, therefore I consider myself both atheist and agnostic.

Most of the atheists I know describe themselves this way. And most of us don’t want to tell you that you are wrong to believe in something we don’t accept or that you are backward for keeping your traditions.  I understand that atheism isn’t for everyone, just as Mormonism definitely wasn’t for me.  I would love to be a live-and-let-live atheist.  But then someone inevitably wants to teach creationism in science class and I can’t just ‘let live’ anymore, because I consider that an encroachment on the separation of church and state.  But that’s a whole other conversation.

I was reading the thread with interest and not weighing in, but then I lost my self-control.  I really need to get out more.  I don’t get enough human interaction working at home and I have been making Facebook debates my substitute.  I’m going to get myself into trouble.

The question was something like, “If you know that the word ‘atheist’ offends people, why wouldn’t you call yourself an agnostic instead? And if I lack belief in a god but believe in a higher power or force in the universe greater than myself, am I an atheist?”

This is what I wrote in response:

I know the word atheist is loaded and most people define it differently than I do (simply without belief in a god). I think of it like the word “feminist.” It’s loaded with controversy but its meaning is simple. I guess I would say, in answer to your question, I’m an atheist feminist living in Utah. I have accepted that my basic beliefs are offensive to the general population.

As for the second question, this is how I think about it: I am confident there are forces in the universe that we will never understand. We are so limited in our scope and ability to comprehend, that I am confident that we will never know enough to understand the questions to ask, let alone the answers that are out there. (Which is why I love the Douglas Adams answer to life, the universe and everything turning out to be 42.) But let’s just say for a second that we could, and it turns out that the answer is a physical law or a set of physical laws that guides the universe, and we all go, “Oh! Now it makes sense!” And then my bishop from my childhood jumps up and points and me and says “See! I was right! I told you there was something!” Then I would turn to him and say, “Excuse me, but is it a bearded magic man who cares a whole lot about whether or not I masturbate? No? Okay, then fuck off.”

I didn’t tell him that, yes, by my definition, he is an atheist.  I kept this to myself because it was clear that word was inherently pejorative to him. Nor did I tell him that most of the people I meet who consider themselves agnostic are actually atheist by my definition.  I don’t tell my ‘agnostic’ friends that, either.  They seem to think that agnosticism is a politer form of atheism.  Or rather, a refusal to take a side.  The Switzerland of dogmas.  My atheist friends think of themselves as agnostic, but my agnostic friends think of themselves as people who just don’t care and would like to talk about something else, now.  But they are living without a god.  They are atheists, too.

That’s okay.  I hold fast that words have meanings and those meanings are important. But I also want the right to define myself and what I believe.  I can give others that right as well.

Latter Day Saints and Sinners

I allowed myself to be drawn into another family’s facebook fight last week.  I knew it was a bad idea, but I couldn’t help myself.  And anyway it has been so long – I think I just needed to be reminded that you aren’t going to change anyone’s opinion.  Not on the topic of homosexuality.  And not on facebook.

A little background…

When I was a kid, my Mormon bishop was unequivocal about homosexuality.  It was a choice, and it was a bad choice.  This was the message I got from everyone in my community.  But in the last few years, I have noticed a distinct evolution in the way Mormon’s talk about our LGBT brothers and sisters.  Suddenly, there was a different tone.  It is still bad, of course.  But they seemed to get that it wasn’t a choice.  I think the word I have heard most is that it is an “affliction.”  As in, “Have you heard? Her son is afflicted with same sex attraction.”

In the beginning I thought that just the fact that they were moving on the issue was good, because it showed progress.  But I quickly decided that was wrong.  In fact, I’ve decided that the new stance is as or more toxic.  They still believe you have a choice.  If not a choice in who you love and are attracted to, then you have a choice in what you do about it.

This is best explained by the Josh and Lolly phenomenon.  Josh and Lolly Weed are a couple who came out several years ago as “mixed attracted” for lack of a better term.  They wrote a long blog post that went viral and gave a lot of people in the church hope that even if their child suffered from this condition that they could still live a “normal” life, centered around a person of the opposite sex, their children and their church.  And the Saints rejoiced.

But then, a few months ago, the Weeds wrote another post announcing that they were wrong.  It wasn’t working, and they are divorcing.

As a result, in the Utah parlance, people are flipping the freak out.

Last week a woman I know through a writing group posted this blog post written by one such flipper outer titled “Actually, the Mormon Position on Gay Marriage is Stronger Than You Think.  I read the title and knew that I was clicking on danger but as I said already… yeah.  It was a slow work day.  The post has since been removed, but here is the gist: So it didn’t work out for the Weeds.  That doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work!  You don’t have to be attracted to a person to love them, you just have to endure the times when you aren’t ‘feeling it’ until you develop that deeper truer Fiddler on the Roof kind of love.  Then he cites his experience of enduring his wife’s postpartum depression without filing for divorce as proof that this can be done.

It was stupid and my general response was a big eyeroll and an “Oh yeah… I forgot about the enthusiasm with which these people will turn themselves into cognitive knots out of desperation to not have to admit they were wrong.”  Then I started looking through the comments that were being posted and I saw that another person from the writing group, a young and out gay man, returned missionary and current student in good standing at BYU, was trying to have a discussion with the poster’s inlaws, cousins, and other hard believing friends.

“Oh God,” I thought.  “Calvin needs some cover fire.”

So I weighed in and said some pro LGBT stuff, basically stating that I know many LGBT folks in life-long partnerships that are as full of love, sacrifice and commitment as any other couple I have ever met.  Sometimes I think that the one helpful thing one can do in these circumstances is remind everyone that they are talking about real people.  Here is an example of a comment that I got in response.

A homosexual relationship cannot meet the purposes for eternal marriage. Being in love longterm by itself means very little in the scope of eternal purposes for marriage. But in reality, there are relatively few homosexual relationships that are longterm anyway. The media has been very successful in painting a certain picture of homosexual family bliss, but the reality is much much more often promiscuity, damaged people, disease, and misery.

So I said:

I think we worry too much about the afterlife and deciphering God’s plan. I would rather focus my energy on doing the most with this life and caring for my family and loved ones, who are not the promiscuous damaged and diseased people you may think they are. But even if they were, I believe that the Jesus Christ I have read about would pull them in closer and not shun them, IMHO.

That same God loving lady responded with:

It is one of the most successful tools of the adversary, to convince people that disapproval of a sin is equal to hating the sinner. It has become a most powerful lie.

Oh my mistake.  I thought you just wrote off an entire community as diseased and damaged people, which sounds a lot like hating the sinner to me, but whatever.  I don’t know how we got to this place where it is far worse to call someone bigoted than to be bigoted, but that seems to be the way of it.

I lost an entire day on this thread.  I stopped commenting, but I kept reading.  Calvin was fighting a good fight, but he was getting ganged up on and no one wanted to hear what he had to say.  I was proud of him, but was hurting me to watch.  Finally, around midnight, I couldn’t take it anymore.  I fired this off in the comments (please forgive the run on sentences – it was late and I was feeling feisty):

Calvin, I should PM you… but I’m going to just say this publicly because as we say in Utah County “what the heck.” If the article’s data is correct and 40% of millennial Mormons are struggling with their faith over social issues, then the church is in a crisis. As has been stated in this thread many times over, there is a clear choice. Accept all on faith and stay, or find that is not possible and leave (where I find myself). You have somehow made another choice. The bravest choice. You have your testimony of The Heavenly Father and you have what you know to your bones to be true about yourself… in your own heart. Clearly, the dissonance is painful for you, and yet you stay and fight for an answer. It seems to me that those of us who want the church to survive in the future might look to you and your choice and say “how do we resolve this together?” Not to lecture or to call you wicked or to say your choices are to remain celibate and die alone, without knowing love or affection, OR to leave… Here is the thing. I have what I want. I have a Supreme Court decision ruling on my side. The fact that the future of the church weighs in the balance of the next generation, and it seems they are split… a person who has been fighting this fight since the 90s might see that as icing on the cake, and there may be days where I do. But you aren’t me. You have taken the braver path. You are staying to fight the brave fight. There will be many people who will tell you to sit down and listen. Those people want to validate their own decisions. What they don’t understand is that they are validating my decision, with every young person they call wicked and push away. On my basest most broken level I want that. I want the church to fail for everyone the way it failed for me. I want my decisions to be validated. But I have – even now – an elevated level, where I see that this church has the power to help people find meaning in this world. And that part of me wants to tell you to never be discouraged. Keep seeking. Keep asking questions. Keep challenging the accepted views. Sooner or later, for the sake of the future, they will sit down and listen.

If not, the Unitarians are lovely and they don’t care if you wear jeans to church. Just sayin’.


Calvin and I ended up taking the conversation over to private message and had a long chat about all of this.  It was really good to decompress and to ease some of the frustration by preaching to the choir instead of to the gargoyles.  The next time I saw him I gave him a big hug and I felt like I had adopted a new nephew.  I know I didn’t budge any minds on that thread; we all left as self-certain as we began.  If I managed to give Calvin a little encouragement, then maybe it wasn’t a lost day after all.

Did I mean it? Do I hope he stays and fights this fight?  Not really.  It was killing me just watching him stand up to some strangers on facebook.  The actual church?  I can’t even imagine.  If I could make his decisions for him, I would get him out of that church and introduce him to some truly compassionate people.  But that’s the whole point.  I don’t want anyone making decisions for each other.  I want us all to have the space and empowerment to find our own paths, wherever they may lead.

Choose Your Love; Love Your Choice

I resigned from my religion today.

Rather, I resigned from the religion I was raised in, which is Mormonism.  I have been out and proud as an atheist for years now.  I have thought about resigning many times but never bothered to do it.  Partly because they make it a hassle.  They call your family and tattle on you and send missionaries by your house to try to talk you out of it.

Last week, however, the LDS church announced (it was leaked and then confirmed, but whatever) that they are changing some official policies regarding same-sex couples and their families.  The quick and dirty version is that same-sex unions were upgraded to “apostacy” and participants in such unions may be disciplined and excommunicated.  That isn’t really the big part – people have been excommunicated for being gay before.  (Though it seemed the church had been softening its message to the LGBTQ community in recent years).  The bit that has everyone up in arms is the fact that they are now prohibiting baptisms of the children of same-sex couples until they are of adult age and even then they have to disavow their parents’ marriage or partnership if they want to be allowed into the fold.  There are more details but they are covered in many places.  If you are interested in learning more this rant delivered by Lewis Black is a good and entertaining summary.

I was shocked and dismayed by the announcement.  It threw me into one of those fury fits that make it difficult to concentrate on anything else.  I spent most of last Friday social notworking from the office and posting things on Facebook like this lovely quote from the current president of the LDS Church, Thomas S. Monson, who apparently didn’t mean “the disparity among some folks regarding the way that same-sex unions should be recognized” when he said “problem” or “child” when he said “person” (that heartless dick).


Once my passive/aggressive “beat ’em with their own words” hate-post phase passed (which took a couple of days) I calmed down and I had to do some serious soul-searching.

Why is this hitting me so hard? I haven’t believed in ages. I’m not invested in the organization doing or saying the right thing. I can’t comprehend how the LDS church still manages to hurt and disappoint me, even now.  After nearly forty years of being embarrassed and enraged by them, what are my expectations?  And most importantly, who am I really angry for?  Who in my life does this change actually affect?

I have many LGBTQ people in my life, including a child that I would put under the Q category.  But none of them are active Mormons. Most were never Mormons. Of course, I see any systematic discrimination as a slap to the face of the entire community.  But this was something different.  For me, this was personal.

I have decided that it has to do with my own difficult childhood growing up Mormon.  And let me first qualify that statement by saying I had a very easy childhood compared to most people growing up poor in the US in the 1980s. We were under the poverty line, but it was a privileged kind of poverty.  I had two college educated parents who came home every night.  No one drank or did drugs and our neighborhood was so safe that not only did we sleep with the doors unlocked, in warm months we slept with the doors wide open.

I had it pretty easy. But I never fit in.  The kids in my neighborhood weren’t allowed to play at my house because my dad wasn’t an active Mormon and was a known coffee drinker.  I’m sure it didn’t help that I was also a weirdo.  But my dad never came to church and I got teased about it, especially from the girls. And that was just voluntary douche-baggery. This new shit is ordained doctrine from on high. “Ostracize the third grader who lives in the house down the street from you!  For he has two mommies!  And that’s just groddy!” [congregation shouts in unison:] “So say we all!”

Yes, I’m a straight ally.  Yes, I believe that this stance is hurting people and communities.  And I have always been happy to stand up and say that I disagree with the Mormons on a host of issues.  In fact, I’m hard pressed to think of a Mormon stance that I do agree with.  Have they ever said they believe in the theory of gravity?  There may be some common ground there…

But I believe that this proclamation was a bridge too far, not for the adult me, but for the child me.  I was the kid who was different.  My family didn’t conform and I was punished for it.  I didn’t understand it then, and I don’t understand it now.  It’s cruel and it’s stupid and they don’t get to do it in my name.  They won’t miss my membership on their roles because, frankly, I never paid tithing.  But it makes a difference to me.

I went to a rally in downtown Salt Lake City today and stood in line to have my paperwork notarized and signed by a pro bono lawyer.  It was a beautiful day.  Over 1,000 people showed up to resign or show solidarity.  It was a fun event and I’m proud that I got to be a part of it.

I don’t kid myself that the next time the Mormons proclaim something draconian, such as “women who work outside the home shall hence forth wear ankle bracelets!” (should I be writing that? I don’t want to give them any ideas…) that I won’t be outraged and hurt and be thrown into painful reflections.  But at least now I can say that I’m not one of them any more.  We have parted ways.

Who knows? Maybe one day I’ll hear some headline out of Temple Square I will be able to just shake my head and move on with my day.  The fact is, I don’t want to fight with them any more.  Isn’t that the point of separation? We both get to be set free?  I’m free of their craziness and they should be free of my negativity.  I want to focus on the good that leaving religion behind has done for my life.  I don’t want to spend one more minute clawing and throwing shade at the LDS Church.  And if they want to go on being the cold corporate international syndicate of mean girls that they are, then that’s exactly what they should do.

(It took less than a minute to type that last sentence so it doesn’t count.)