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Why Mormons Can’t Understand the Pain of Being Postmormon
 
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Mother's Day resulted in a minor breakdown for my wife.  We got a mini-lecture from my Father-in-law regarding a talk he gave that day in church on "Mothers in Israel."  He spoke about some of the important women in his life, and how each of them taught their children about the importance of sacrificing EVERYTHING for the church (those were his words).  And then, looking at my wife, he talked about the importance of his own daughters carrying on that legacy, being mothers in Israel, teaching their own children that same virtue.

Of course, he knows full well that our children are not marrying in the temple, that we hold no callings, and that our sons are not going on missions. 

The breakdown occurred later that evening, as my wife, through sobs, expressed the pain of knowing that she is a "disappointment" to her father.  No matter what good she accomplishes; no matter how wonderful our children are; no matter how happy and strong our own marriage is, all that matters to her parents is that we couldn't do it...we couldn't endure to the end, sacrifice it all for the church, and in that regard, we are a disappointment.  Not "bad", just a failure.

I don't know anyone who wants to be perceived as a disappointment to their parents.

This is the agony that faithful members of the church simply cannot understand.  We have them visit us here periodically on the forum, challenging us on why it hurts to leave the church, and how everyone is free to believe whatever they want, the church doesn't hold a gun to anyone's head and make them attend or pay their tithing, blah, blah, blah.  They have no idea what the real pain is.  It's not their fault--they have not had this experience, and from their perspective, it makes no sense.  They simply cannot wrap their minds around that which is not real to them.

The real pain is in the knowledge that in the eyes of your faithful Mormon friends and family members, you have failed.  You don't measure up. They may continue to love you, but now you are the prodigal child.  You have strayed from the fold, soiled the family name, and because they are good and righteous people, they will continue to extend their love to you, but now it is out of pity, not respect.

It no longer matters the quality of your character.  It no longer matters the quality of family you raise, the quality of life you live, the love you extend to others, the accomplishments you achieve, the things you learn, the lives you touch...all that matters is that you failed.  You are a disappointment to your parents, to the church, and ultimately to God.

A faithful Mormon can never understand that...

...but you can.  That's probably why you're here. 

It's why I am.
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peter_mary:
The breakdown occurred later that evening, as my wife, through sobs, expressed the pain of knowing that she is a "disappointment" to her father.  No matter what good she accomplishes; no matter how wonderful our children are; no matter how happy and strong our own marriage is, all that matters to her parents is that we couldn't do it...we couldn't endure to the end, sacrifice it all for the church, and in that regard, we are a disappointment.  Not "bad", just a failure.

I don't know anyone who wants to be perceived as a disappointment to their parents.


It's heartbreaking to read things like this. Damnit, it has to stop! Too bad it's much easier said than done.

I'm reminded of the title of Christopher Hichens' latest book.

God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything

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Jeff Ricks:It's heartbreaking to read things like this. Damnit, it has to stop! Too bad it's much easier said than done.


But could it ever stop?  I don't think any amount of preaching or teaching could ever change this mindset among Mormons.  The church is true, endure to the end is their mantra....what choice does a parent have when their child falls away?  They certainly can't celebrate that choice.  It is heartbreaking...it underscores the fallacy that the church is all about "families."  Truly, few things are more divisive in this world to families than Mormonism.  It ONLY works if everyone lines up.  You step out, and family collapses all around you.

Families are forever if you pay your money and do what we tell you.  Otherwise, your family won't make it to next month...
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peter_mary:But could it ever stop?  I don't think any amount of preaching or teaching could ever change this mindset among Mormons.


I think you're right. Mormonism would cease to be Mormonism before there was any chance of it stopping. Remove the parts of Mormonism that encourange Mormons to be this way and you've removed its foundation. Mormonism is fundamentally based on the claim that it is the one and only true church on the earth, led by God's number one mouthpiece. Remove the claim to have special access to God's truths and Mormonism becomes just another Christian religion -- a more tolerant, more 'Christian,' more socially healthy belief system. Too bad that's just not going to happen any time soon.
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I am sorry about the pain your wife experienced on a day which she should have been honored.  There are many here, who post and lurk, who have felt that tremendous sadness of being judged by LDS family.  My mother, just weeks ago, told me of her dissappointment that I would not be able to dress my father in his temple clothes upon his death, I will not be able to dedicate my parents' grave, nor provide priesthood blessings to them.  These duties will fall upon my brothers in law.  I shared in her dissappointment.  I expressed my sorry that she remained in a religion that was so devisive and judgmental which could cause such sorrow in a family.  I am sure she didn't understand.

Several years ago, my mother in law spoke with me about my disbelief.  She asked me to do several things, including keeping an open mind.  I chuckled at her request and told her that attitude was what got me out of the church - open mindedness.  Then I seriously told her that I would keep an open mind as to any information provided to me.  I asked her if she would be willing to do the same - to keep an open mind. She said she would not.  I then asked her why she expected me to keep an open mind but was unwilling to do so herself.  Her reply was that she was confident she was correct and I was wrong and there was no need to be open minded about it.

This arrogance is appalling.  Yet most LDS I know feel no twinge of guilt about voicing or behaving in such an arrogant manner.  Why not? 

Joseph Smith.  In the last version of the "First Vision" words attributed to Smith included the Savior telling Smith that all religions were an abomination.  Smith claimed in Kirkland to have received exclusive priesthood authority from ancient apostles.  These dogmas made Mormonism an exclusive church.  To be a good Latter-day Saint, one cannot even allow the least amount of questioning.  Nor be tolerant of others who leave. 

Unfortunately, I think that the LDS Church has institutionalized a form of cognitive dissonance in its members which prevents them from honestly questioning their faith, or accepting the path of others who leave.  Of course, there are some exceptions to this rule, but most LDS members cannot accept the legitmacy of other's faith or paths.

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Skeptical:

Several years ago, my mother in law spoke with me about my disbelief.  She asked me to do several things, including keeping an open mind.  I chuckled at her request and told her that attitude was what got me out of the church - open mindedness.  Then I seriously told her that I would keep an open mind as to any information provided to me.  I asked her if she would be willing to do the same - to keep an open mind. She said she would not.  I then asked her why she expected me to keep an open mind but was unwilling to do so herself.  Her reply was that she was confident she was correct and I was wrong and there was no need to be open minded about it.


The double standards of Mormonism (and really, of any conservative religion) are hard to swallow.  Your example is stunning. 

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judge naut:I couldn't agree more.  I would love to be able to look forward to holidays and family get togethers.  Instead I feel sick to my stomach for days beforehand.  I would love for my kids to feel comfortable going somewhere fun with grandma or grandpa, instead of feeling afraid they might get a lecture about church, missions, marrying in the temple, etc.  I love my kids!  I AM doing what I feel is best for them and for our family in general!  Please, please, more tolerance and love. 

PM,
Hugs to your wife and family from me and mine.

Our kids feel exactly the same way.  There is weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth when we announce we're going to Grandma and Grandpa's house, because, even though they won't get actually confronted, they KNOW they are disappointments to their grandparents.  It is spoken loudly in the pride they hear in their Grandparents voices over the church-achievements of all their other grandchildren, and the inability to even acknowledge a college graduation for one of our children...  Our kids know what their grandparent's priorities are...the church first, second and third.  In their eyes, our children are like the stray puppies that you put out a little kibble for, in the hopes that they'll go away, while their other grandchildren are pure-bred, registered and papered wonder-dogs with value and honor and virtue.  It's the "Mormon glasses" that cause them to see our children this way.  YOU would find my kids to be warm, funny, talented, personable, attractive and have the world at their feet.   But their grandparents see failures. 

And thanks for the hugs!
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peter_mary:

The double standards of Mormonism (and really, of any conservative religion) are hard to swallow.  Your example is stunning. 



I have been baffled for a long time by the idea that the LDS Church predicates so much of its philosophy on the idea that we all have "free agency."  Yet to be a member in good standing, it is the one thing you have to give up.
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hypatia:
peter_mary:

The double standards of Mormonism (and really, of any conservative religion) are hard to swallow.  Your example is stunning. 



I have been baffled for a long time by the idea that the LDS Church predicates so much of its philosophy on the idea that we all have "free agency."  Yet to be a member in good standing, it is the one thing you have to give up.


It seems to me that the LDS concept of free agency amounts to God holding a gun to your head and saying, "You know what I expect but, hey, you have your free agency. Make your choice."
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Jeff Ricks:
It's heartbreaking to read things like this. Damnit, it has to stop! Too bad it's much easier said than done.
 

Peter_mary, you are making it stop. By refusing to participate in the religion, you are stopping the pattern of generational abuse in this regard. Your children will likely never experience the anguish that your wife feels. You will celebrate all that is good in their lives instead of measuring them by a standard that is fabricated and uncharitable.


During our exit, my husband and I met with a child psychiatrist. We expressed our concern for the doctrinal elements that caused our daughter to feel inadequate. We expressed the inner turmoil that my husband and I felt regarding the teachings and approach of the religion and passing these on to our children. We had initially decided that we would raise our children in the religion and then let them choose if they wanted to continue as adults. But by this time we were ready to pull the plug entirely.


The psychiatrist frankly said she was glad to see us take leadership as parents in making a decision rather than leaving the decision for our children to make. And, she said this after she expressed that religion is generally good for children. In this case, she supported us in pulling the plug out of the network.


We are looking forward to celebrating all that is good about our children and grandchildren absent any external expectations heaped on our family by a dogmatic religion. But, we also expect to run interference with our own parents to manage any ill-will they might generate.

I am sorry to hear that your wife was not honored by her parents on Mother's Day. That hurts.

 
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Jeff Ricks:
hypatia:I have been baffled for a long time by the idea that the LDS Church predicates so much of its philosophy on the idea that we all have "free agency."  Yet to be a member in good standing, it is the one thing you have to give up.


It seems to me that the LDS concept of free agency amounts to God holding a gun to your head and saying, "You know what I expect but, hey, you have your free agency. Make your choice."

That's exactly right.  I have heard it taught from the pulpit on multiple occassions that "you only have your free agency so long as you choose the right."  And we ALL know what "the right" means...it means you choose to do what the church tells you to do, or else.  What the hell kind of choice is that?
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hypatia:
peter_mary:

The double standards of Mormonism (and really, of any conservative religion) are hard to swallow.  Your example is stunning. 



I have been baffled for a long time by the idea that the LDS Church predicates so much of its philosophy on the idea that we all have "free agency."  Yet to be a member in good standing, it is the one thing you have to give up.


As I recall, several years ago in Conference addresses, members were being advised that the greatest gift we could give to Christ, was to return our agency to him.  It bothered me then.  I am looking for the conference addresses, maybe one of you remembers this too.
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I find myself so strongly identifying with this same struggle. It really hurts to know that my parents feel that, where it matters most, I am a failure.

I mean, when you look at my life, I'm the kind of daughter most folks would love to have. I am intelligent, responsible, stable, and have a good relationship with my family. I earned an advanced degree and paid for it myself with merit scholarships. I try to make the world a better place, and I think most days I make a difference, even if its just tiny. My kids are great. Healthy, well-adjusted, and well-behaved. In a family crisis I can be relied on. I am funny, colorful, and for the most part a model child.

But I'm not mormon anymore, so to them I have a giant character defect.

It hurts, and there is nothing to be done about it. I can't be a happy person and be the person they want me to be.

But *my* children love me, and I had a good mother's day. My husband help them pick out a beautiful necklace and earring set for me (citrines--so pretty). Sadly, while at a methodist church service I had to step out and help with a runaway that had shown up fearing that her own mother would beat her. The irony of it did not escape me. I did what I could for that young woman, and realized that my mom was probably mourning her apostate children at that moment and feeling like a maternal failure, with a deeply skewed perspective about what really matters.

I shrugged to myself as that realization hit me. I mean, what part of that whole scenario isn't seriously messed up?

Afterward we went out for chinese food and put the kiddos down for a nap. One hope I have as a mother is that my children will never know that I was mormon, or what that meant. That there will be no trace of that culture left in my parenting. That there will be nothing about their choices regarding their beliefs or lifestyles that will prevent me from loving and appreciating the accomplishments and character. That my love for *them* will be unconditional. Boy, I really hope they don't put me to the test on this...but it's what I want from them.
 
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Peter_Mary,

    Thank you for sharing this story. It exactly captures what has been hardest for me in leaving the church.

    My parents are both converts to the church - they joined in their early twenties. Ironically, I was about the same age when I left the church  I was raised in. It's so difficult sometimes even to be around them because the dissaproval and dissapointment is tangible even when they don't say a word (and they usually do say many words). My husband can't stand it either, he's sick of getting lectured about how he should hold the priesthood, how we'd be better off financially if we were paying our tithing, etc, etc, you've all heard it many times before I'm sure. We both cringe at the thought of spending time with them which is really sad because, Mormonism aside, my parents are really great to be around. I hate this.

    It was nice to hear I'm not alone. I've been a bit hard on myself lately, telling myself that I shouldn't let it get to me, but like you said, no one wants to be a disappointment to their parents. It's so frustrating and so unfair that it doesn't matter what I accomplish, or how happy, or how kind of a person I am, it will never be good enough for them because when it comes to what's really important, I just couldn't do it. In fact, I don't think they'll ever really believe that I'm happy as long as I'm outside of the church, and that's frustrating too.

    They've given up so much for the church and made so many changes in their lives (not all for the worse) that it's not likely they will ever question, so I'm afraid I can't expect them to change. I'm not even sure if I would want them to, I know how difficult it's been for me to leave, and I'm afraid it would be all the more difficult for them. I would almost prefer they go on believing forever because as sad as it is that they believe in lies, I shudder to think of the alternative. Sigh.

    Thanks again, my hugs also go out to you and your wife.

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Punky&#;s Dilemma:

But I'm not mormon anymore, so to them I have a giant character defect.

It hurts, and there is nothing to be done about it. I can't be a happy person and be the person they want me to be.



The real clincher here is when other family members look at your kids with the same jaundiced eye...I heard the tsk-tsking sound loud and clear when my son followed his own rather interesting path in life. Now that my daughter is going through a divorce, I am again sensing the shaking of heads over the fact some think they know the root of the calamities. It sometimes feels to me my kids were scrutinized just a bit more than their cousins.
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I've been lurking around off and on as some have noticed.  I don't want to make things worse around here by posting, but I wanted to pipe in here.

The breakdown occurred later that evening, as my wife, through sobs, expressed the pain of knowing that she is a "disappointment" to her father. 


I know this feeling well, but from a different percpective.  My family, especially my grandparents, are very successfull in terms on financial stability, careers, etc.  They are just rich, bottomline.  As I am almost 30 and still working on my masters, I have been seen as someone who lacks ambition.  My grandma wanted me to become a doctor, which I tried Premed for a good year, and decided it was not for me.  We have a small place, I got married too young, I'm not ready to have children, etc.  My own father has never even been to my home...any of my homes...ever.  My grandmother came once to see how I was living and to meet my wife, but she had a lot of critism about our home.  We love our home.  It's a little townhouse, but we put our personalities into it.  She blows it off by saying that she tends to stick her foot in her mouth, but expects us to accept that and shrug it off like it's no big deal. 
Also, nobody in my family has ever been divorced.  My grandmother left her first husband, but for good reason as he was abusive.  So guess how many people came to my second wedding.   Well, my parents were there (and my siblings), and that was good.  But nobody in my extended family, other than my Grandma, has ever met my wife.  There is some reason to be understanding as most of us live relatively far from each other, but still no effort has been made.  Though nobody will tell me (they haven't even talked to me in a long time), I know that many are critical of my divorce.  Now, they could be right about somethings, because I made my share of mistakes in the marraige, but they still can't accept me fully. 

All of this is me venting a little, so I apologize.  My point is that I understand what it's like to be a "disappointment" to my family.  My wife and I talk about it often.  At first, she didn't believe it to be so, but as the few years went by, she understands and agrees. 

So this is how I relate to the topic of this thread.  P_M, and to the rest of you, if it is any consolation, you have two mormon converts in this area, my wife and I.  (Well, the conversion has been and continues to be progressive, but this was a big step.)

The easy part for me is to accept that other's families (postmormon, christian, non-christian, whatever) are happy and successful.  But this is mostly because they are other families, whether they be close friends or not.  To have that same support for my own family is where the real challenge comes in.  But I guess that is one of the biggest problems for postmormons here.  Pnut made the statement "I really wish that religious differences wouldn’t have to cause such destruction to a marriage."  That certainly can apply to extended family as well.  And I agree with her.  Although my family does not have great issues with that fact that we are of different faiths (Only my family is LDS, and even then we are a part member family), we do differ greatly in terms of our life goals.  Well, my goals as compared to the rest of the family anyway.  My goals are not the same as that of my father or grandma.  They are dissappointed by this.  But at the same time, I guess I need to be more accepting of their goals and that they are happy with it.  

But the really, really big challenge will come with that of my own children.  I suppose this is part of the initial reason why I first logged in here.  If my children ever choose a path that is different than that which I would hope for them, I will have to make a strong effort to make sure, at least on my part, the family is still tolerant, loving, and accepting of each other.  That our differences won't tear our family apart.  I suppose as a father, I will need to make sure that we are all accepting of each other regardless of what each sibling chooses to do.  To me, this also applies to much more than just the possibility of my children leaving the church.  What if they choose a lifestyle that is much more different than mine?  What if I feel their choices are damaging their future?  Will I have the same relationship with my children as that of my family to me?  Or will I learn from these mistakes?

I suppose I still have to figure it out, but I've got time.  It's a progressive conversion. 

Also, I don't think I'm the only mormon out there that feels this way.  But our voices just aren't loud enough, and more importantly, those voices may not be part of your families.  And that is where the greatest pain lies. 
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Punky&#;s Dilemma:I mean, when you look at my life, I'm the kind of daughter most folks would love to have. I am intelligent, responsible, stable, and have a good relationship with my family. I earned an advanced degree and paid for it myself with merit scholarships. I try to make the world a better place, and I think most days I make a difference, even if its just tiny. My kids are great. Healthy, well-adjusted, and well-behaved. In a family crisis I can be relied on. I am funny, colorful, and for the most part a model child.

But I'm not mormon anymore, so to them I have a giant character defect.


You have described my wife to a "T".  (In fact, if you're 5'2", you ARE my wife!)  I look at her, and I can't imagine what parent would want more.  And yet, I know that in the eyes of her parents, the words of David O. McKay are ringing in their ears: "No success can compensate for failure in the home."  And what greater failure than to lead your children out of the church?  No faithful "Mother in Israel" would ever dream of such reckless behavior.

I guess the problem here is that as a Mormon, you cannot see why these feelings toward your children would be wrong.  If you believe that the church provides the only means back to your Father 'n Heaven, then it also represents the only true course of happiness.  They have no way of knowing, as Kool-Aid drinkers, that their sight is so severly limited; it's the only sight they've ever known.  And being so near-sighted, they are shameless in their judgement, albeit in the name of "love and concern." 

That's why they cannot ever know the pain.  They believe their actions and attitudes are not only justified...but aligned with the way God himself feels.   That's a tough attitude for a Postmormon to ever overcome...
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wiley:I know this feeling well, but from a different percpective.   

Hey, Wiley...good to see you poke your nose back in here for a while!

I appreciated your comments, because I think what you've done is listened to the perspective of me and others, and likened it to your own situation in a way that helps you go, "Hey....I see how that would suck pretty bad."  It's that kind of empathy that builds bridges.

As a convert, this exact issue probably won't ever be your issue, unless it happens in reverse.  My family struggled when I JOINED the church, my wife's struggled when we left. 

...sigh...

Thanks for stopping back by.
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Just one more thing....

I suppose I will probably never completely understand the pains of being a postmormon as described here in this thread, as I have never had that particular experience of being a postmormon.  For me to say so, I would have to wear those shoes for awhile.  So I don't want to come off as saying that I will ever fully understand. 

But I won't let that stop me from trying to do my part better.

Edited later...

As a convert, this exact issue probably won't ever be your issue, unless it happens in reverse. 


Yeah P_M, that was what I was trying to say.  But you got your post out before I did.

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hypatia:The real clincher here is when other family members look at your kids with the same jaundiced eye...I heard the tsk-tsking sound loud and clear when my son followed his own rather interesting path in life. Now that my daughter is going through a divorce, I am again sensing the shaking of heads over the fact some think they know the root of the calamities. It sometimes feels to me my kids were scrutinized just a bit more than their cousins.

I always love this one...

Basically, if a child struggles after their parents apostacize, then the assumption is that the struggles are the direct result of falling away from the church.  But if the parents remain faithful, and their child struggles with the exact same things, then people simply shrug it off as "Kids will be kids," or, "They have their free agency!" or, "I wonder what's REALLY going on in that home..."
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Wiley mentioned extended family disappointment.  When my wife and I married 2 years ago, not many of my extended family were aware that I'd left the church far behind me.  They received our wedding announcements and certainly took note that there was no temple wedding, but I'm sure they chalked that up to my fiancè not being a member.  I remember the many shocking moments of that day.  1st there was the nondenominational FEMALE clergy who married us, with a ceremony in which the word "god" was never uttered.  2nd we had champagne as an option at the dinner.  3rd, the wine.  Oh the wine.  How many bottles did we go through?  Let's just say after only 2 hours I was approached by the coordinator alerting me that my $500 cap had been met, and he needed my permission to open more- oh yes, we opened more.  And last but not least, my best man puking his guts out in the groom's room- from said wine. 
My extended family has not treated me the same since.  Oh, and the fact that they are all staunch republicans (my grandpa worked as press secretary for the 1st senator Bennett) and I like to wear clothing which shares my feelings on the current administration doesn't help any.


 
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I think that everyone has made good points here.  I think that the way we are treated depends on the person also.  My TBM mom was very unhappy when I first left, this is because she thought I was only doing it to drink alcohol (her parents were both pretty serious alcoholics).  When she truly tried to understand and saw that I was seriously searching out things in the church and not "drinking" my life away she came around and now seems to accept me.  In fact she now enjoys having discussions about religion with me and really seems to appreciate my view point.  As for my extended family they are all the other way.  They think that my parents have failed in raising me in some way and that I am just falling off the edge and will never amount to anything.  It can be really frustrating even trying to talk to them, so I avoid big family get togethers wherever possible.  A couple of my friends are still around and respect my decision.  But most of them have left.

I think that in Utah it can be worse than outside of Utah because it is hard when you are surrounded by so many hardcore mormons.

Oh and Wiley I have felt that way about schooling many times in my family as well.  I am 26 and just finishing up my first degree.  At my brother's wedding my mom said something to my Uncle from texas about how he will have to come out this year for my graduation and he quipped,"Oh I didn't think Brenna would ever be ready to graduate..."  Grr...!!!  So I feel your pain on that one too. 

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If it makes it any better, this is pretty much any religion. I was raised in the Church of Christ, which is really strict on its beliefs as well. My mom and dad couldn't take it when I left. My mom didn't talk to me for a year. But, we have come to better speaking terms, as my parents have come to see that I am human just like them and I made a choice. Of course, they still look down on me and say they pray for me. Even after I told them I am atheist, they keep on telling me about people from church that I should pray for. Surprisingly they took it pretty well that I am gay, and that I have taken a totally different path then they originally had set out for me. But, you can tell they favor my brother and his wife, who still attend the Church of Christ, over me and my other brother. It hurts, but I have learned that I have made a decision for me, I do not want them to change for me, just like I am not going to change for them.
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peter_mary:
In their eyes, our children are like the stray puppies that you put out a little kibble for, in the hopes that they'll go away, while their other grandchildren are pure-bred, registered and papered wonder-dogs with value and honor and virtue. 



I picture your stray puppies romping and tumbling through meadows of wildflowers.  Maybe their hair isn't in its perfect place, but they are healthy and happy.  Contrasted with the picture perfect pure-breds stuck pacing in a kennel for most of their lives.  Sad thought.

I'm sorry your wife was sad on Mom's day, that feeling of having disappointed a parent really sucks. 
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I wish that TBM's could feel what it feels like to be rejected and looked down by family and friends.  A TBM's self esteem and concept is based on the evaluation of their peers, family and church members.  How sad that TBM's often mistreat and abuse others because they don't live up to a religious organizations high standards.

It is very cruel and ignorant to treat loved ones in such a way but TBM's will never realize it because they think that by bullying and criticizing they will bring them back into the fold.  It is like a parent yelling at a child for making a natural simple mistake.  The parent frowns, wags their finger and withholds affection.  This kind of parenting is immature and harmful.
 My wife always tells me that the only family that matters is the one who really loves you: luckily I have good in-laws and a wife who support and love me!  They are my real family! 
 
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rosetta stone:I picture your stray puppies romping and tumbling through meadows of wildflowers.  Maybe their hair isn't in its perfect place, but they are healthy and happy.  Contrasted with the picture perfect pure-breds stuck pacing in a kennel for most of their lives.  Sad thought.

 

This is an incredibly appropriate visual!  There is a certain wildness that comes with freedom, and my "stray puppies" come back to the den with mud on their noses and paws, but their tails are wagging and their eyes are bright and shiny.  The kennel puppies are clean, and their coats are combed, but they have never seen the world outside their kennel.  The light has gone from their eyes, and after a while, they are afraid to leave the kennel...

Thanks for the enhancements to my metaphor, Rosetta Stone!  There's probably a full-lenght essay in there somewhere!
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judge naut:
peter_mary:
judge naut:I couldn't agree more.  I would love to be able to look forward to holidays and family get togethers.  Instead I feel sick to my stomach for days beforehand.  I would love for my kids to feel comfortable going somewhere fun with grandma or grandpa, instead of feeling afraid they might get a lecture about church, missions, marrying in the temple, etc.  I love my kids!  I AM doing what I feel is best for them and for our family in general!  Please, please, more tolerance and love. 

PM,
Hugs to your wife and family from me and mine.

Our kids feel exactly the same way.  There is weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth when we announce we're going to Grandma and Grandpa's house, because, even though they won't get actually confronted, they KNOW they are disappointments to their grandparents.  It is spoken loudly in the pride they hear in their Grandparents voices over the church-achievements of all their other grandchildren, and the inability to even acknowledge a college graduation for one of our children...  Our kids know what their grandparent's priorities are...the church first, second and third.  In their eyes, our children are like the stray puppies that you put out a little kibble for, in the hopes that they'll go away, while their other grandchildren are pure-bred, registered and papered wonder-dogs with value and honor and virtue.  It's the "Mormon glasses" that cause them to see our children this way.  YOU would find my kids to be warm, funny, talented, personable, attractive and have the world at their feet.   But their grandparents see failures. 

And thanks for the hugs!


I hope your kids, everyone's kids KNOW they are 'warm, funny, talented, personable, attractive and have the world at their feet'!

Hugs to all the stray dogs out there... and their kids!    


Yea my wife and I have 2 adopted kids and when we get together as an extended families we get the questions like "when are you going to get sealed to your kids".  My wife fears going to family things too.  My kids are young enough to not have to worry about that yet.  My wife and I are just going to keep telling our kids we love them no matter what.  It doesn't matter the religion or anything like that we will love and support what ever they do.

One other point I've seen throughout this post is the idea of free agency.  I feel coming to this website that people support my decision whether it be to continue mormonism or terminate it.  I feel no pressure from anyone either way which is nice because it gives me time to think about everything.  If I were to go to the bishop and express anything like I've done here then I would not have free agency to choose.  I'd be forced to believe until I accepted.  That is one reason why my wife and I have not gone to the bishop for "advice".
 
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peter_mary:
rosetta stone:I picture your stray puppies romping and tumbling through meadows of wildflowers.  Maybe their hair isn't in its perfect place, but they are healthy and happy.  Contrasted with the picture perfect pure-breds stuck pacing in a kennel for most of their lives.  Sad thought.

 

This is an incredibly appropriate visual!  There is a certain wildness that comes with freedom, and my "stray puppies" come back to the den with mud on their noses and paws, but their tails are wagging and their eyes are bright and shiny.  The kennel puppies are clean, and their coats are combed, but they have never seen the world outside their kennel.  The light has gone from their eyes, and after a while, they are afraid to leave the kennel...

Thanks for the enhancements to my metaphor, Rosetta Stone!  There's probably a full-lenght essay in there somewhere!


You're welcome!  Can't wait to read the essay if you ever write it.
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Peter-Mary I just read this thread today. What you wrote is dead on. I have moved on from being a Mormon, but my TBM family has not let go of the fact that their faithful returned missionary son has left the church and all its "Blessings." It does hurt to think that you are a disappointment to those you love most. To spite my family I am going to love them completely and live my life to the fullest and to the best of my ability.

Thanks for the post.
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peter_mary:
Our kids feel exactly the same way.  There is weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth when we announce we're going to Grandma and Grandpa's house, because, even though they won't get actually confronted, they KNOW they are disappointments to their grandparents.  It is spoken loudly in the pride they hear in their Grandparents voices over the church-achievements of all their other grandchildren, and the inability to even acknowledge a college graduation for one of our children...  Our kids know what their grandparent's priorities are...the church first, second and third.  In their eyes, our children are like the stray puppies that you put out a little kibble for, in the hopes that they'll go away, while their other grandchildren are pure-bred, registered and papered wonder-dogs with value and honor and virtue.  It's the "Mormon glasses" that cause them to see our children this way.  YOU would find my kids to be warm, funny, talented, personable, attractive and have the world at their feet.   But their grandparents see failures. 

And thanks for the hugs!

P_M

What is say following is in no way meant to deny your pain, but is intended to keep it focused appropriately.

Can I encourage a re-frame on the words 'because, even though they won't get actually confronted, they KNOW they are disappointments to their grandparents': an apparently small one, but in reality a BIG one?

You and your kids are not the disappointment, so I suggest never, ever using those particular words. Keep the boundaries really clear as that will make it easier for your kids to deal with this.

The disappointment is of their grandparent's making, disconnected from the real virtue of your kids. So a sentence like 'Because of their Mormon indoctrination and beliefs, their grandparents maintain a judgement of failure of their non-member daughter, son-in-law and their children for leaving'.

That manner of wording better describes the reality, and elevates the healthy self-esteem your kids can feel about this. To the degree the grandparents make you all feel shitty, they are messing with your heads. DON'T LET THEM.

To further your pet breeding analogy, they may be convinced you have mongrels and the observant kids are purebreds, but let me suggest that their insistence on Mormon purebreds is enabling a serious genetic defect to be propagated in the 'pure line'. It carries with it the certainty of a serious form of mental deterioration, unfounded elitism and a form of sight deterioration.

By comparison, it has been well known that the genetic diversity of the 'impure' breeds frequently results in a far more healthy and personable breed.

The other aspect is the unspoken element - the elephant in the middle of the room, which Mormons do sooooooooooooooo well.

Would some 'I' statements work? 'When you speak of cousin's Fred's mission in that way, I feel ..........'?

Daryl
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Hey PM


Sorry about the pain your wife had to go through. I hope you remind her that we all consider her very brave and a true hero.  


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Born Free
You and your kids are not the disappointment, so I suggest never, ever using those particular words. Keep the boundaries really clear as that will make it easier for your kids to deal with this.

The disappointment is of their grandparent's making, disconnected from the real virtue of your kids. So a sentence like 'Because of their Mormon indoctrination and beliefs, their grandparents maintain a judgement of failure of their non-member daughter, son-in-law and their children for leaving'.


Daryl

Thank you, Daryl, and really, thank you all for your kind expressions of love and support.  That's why I LOVE this place!

Really, my wife and I have pretty good boundaries when it comes to church things, and everyone in my family is resolved.  The Mother's Day story, though true and indeed sad, is really just a jumping off place for people to identify--or not--with what I believe is a common "hurt" among people who leave the church, namely the recognition that the church exercises some subtle, very powerful psychology by dividing families who don't line up.  The awareness on the part of former Mormons that they are now and forever relegated to the realms of those "who just couldn't do it" in the eyes of their parents, family members, friends, and neighbors is a very, very powerful and controlling message.  Of course it's healthy to reframe those messages, and place the responsibility on the shoulders of the judgemental church members...

...but the reality is, when you are faced with the realization that your parents view you as a dissappointment--no matter WHAT else you make of your life from here on out--it hurts in a profound way.  It's what makes people stay in the closet.  It's what keeps people from attending family reunions.  It's what keeps people pretending to be what they're not, because that family approval can  be vital to a person's sense of self and well-being 

We get over it.  We move on.  But there are family scars that we bear for the rest of our lives, and the damage done is often done forever.  I applaud the parents who really and truly don't seem phased by their apostate children.  I would guess they are the exception, not the rule.  And I would also guess that in most cases, they are either a) converts themselves, or b) questioning themselves.  But if they are multi-generational pioneer stock with testimony roots that run deep...then their wayward children will forever be a dissappointment, and their children will feel it.  Deeply.
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Jeff Ricks:

It seems to me that the LDS concept of free agency amounts to God holding a gun to your head and saying, "You know what I expect but, hey, you have your free agency. Make your choice."


You are free to make your choice but you can't choose the consequences.  I think that is the general idea.  I don't think mormonism is unique in its attitude that if someone leave it then they are damned.  A religion probably wouldn't last very long if it took a laize fare attitude about member retention. 

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peter_mary:

A faithful Mormon can never understand that...

...but you can.  That's probably why you're here. 

It's why I am.


I was away from my family and staying with my brother on mother's day.  I skipped church.  I am not a member, why should I go.  At dinner I got to hear a story about sheep and goats and a retelling of a member of the ward who tried to prove the church wasn't true but couldn't do it.  I felt those were subtile jabs at my disbelief.  I am now in a place by myself. 
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WOW!!!!  This has been one of the best threads ever on this board.  Thank-you Peter-Mary for your heart felt story and for all the responses.  I think maybe Jeff should add a sticky to this one and let more people express why there is so much pain from TBM familys.  Expressions like these are the reason that I am a part of this wonderful forum.  Thanks to all!!   Bear
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Wiley,
I want to thank you for the honest and sensitive post.  Here you can see the great sadness people feel who have long lasting consequences in making any other choice than following Mormonism and this pain is real and can be a continual reminder of the unspoken judgement of failure by the faith.  I'm glad you shared here and I think it is sad that your extended family did not support you in your second marriage or has "opinions" about your life choices.  As my dear little sweet granny used to say... "You can be just as happy sitting in a mudpuddle farting.".  It is the happiness you celebrate for others.... and not their mudpuddle they're sitting in.  That's their choice.... LOL!  And as for the farting..... well, that's just fun for everyone!  hehehe

All of these posts address such pain.  There is a genuine sense of failure and also the LDS families have a geniune sense of "loss".  In my husband's case, his family has a geniune sense of "loss" when his sister converted to LDS.   His parents have "supported her choice" but do feel a loss. I do not think this loss is because they don't feel she'll be "saved" but rather, they saw her conversion to Mormonism as an all encompassing experience.  She no longer had much spare time, she began to quickly have baby after baby.  She quit college and gave up her dream to be a teacher so she could go on a mission to Costa Rica and married right away and got pregnant right away after her return.  Her spouse also quit college and now they live below the poverty level and she "gives it all to the church", time, money and her talents.  All her siblings finished college and have pretty comfortable lives.  I think her parents saw her joining the church as a major derailment in her future plans and I think that is where they feel the loss and saddness.  I suppose such disappointment does go both ways and perhaps she feels like the failure, but she would never share any such ideas. 

Another sad case is our friend who has just left the church.  Poor guy had a rough childhood and dad is very old and sick.  Mom is who knows where? He was partially raised in the foster system.  So, his in-laws who are now making him feel like he's misguided and lost are really not giving him any acceptable choice and they told him they want him to remain in the church because they want him to go to heaven with all of them.  They are basically saying to him...... You're the key... you're the only one who is holding the rest of your family back, they are depending on you to take them to heaven so we can all be together as a family.  How much more of a failure could you feel like than that?  You're a disappointment on earth, by choosing a different church than the LDS church, because you honestly don't believe in what the church teaches and because of your being honest about your beliefs, you'll not only be causing your family pain on earth, but for "All time and eternity".  This is the biggest guilt trip one could face.  You're messing up here, but your choices will tear apart your family, your children will be forever separated in heaven from you, your wife and each other. 

That makes me so sad for our friends and I mean both of them.  I feel for him, because he must be honest with himself and not live a lie.  I feel for her because she believes his choices will punish her and ruin her eternal life and the eternal security of her precious children.  There is no way to be honest and win.  It is lose, lose for him.  He has started to talk about his life without his TBM wife.  I urge him to not give up until they both exhaust professional counseling.  I don't see a solution that honors both the marriage and his personal honesty.  Can they compromise?  The faith doesn't say, "We're not the only one true church on earth."  They're not just saying "We're the best church on earth."  They claim, "We're the ONLY church".  All others are "invalid".  How can he choose any other church and expect to share that faith with his children while they're being taught that all other churches are not the "true church"?

Why should the love of god inspire so much judgement, pain and heartache?  To me, the love of god should inspire people to accept, love and judge not.       

 
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I can understand Peter_Mary's post and the anguish of his wife. I also believe that his wife's parents or father made a mistake. The best way to struggle against this is to apply the words of christ to an active family. This usually works well.

However I do think that such experiences are an exception and not the rule. I have never heard a general authority speak down to any person who is inactive or who is an exmember in talks or firesides. Usually the message is one of love. How members treat post or ex members should be a concern and if they are unloving then there should be a little lecture about christian love given to them.

That being said it needs to be remembered that the concern shown or the lecture given to the ex or post member is in most cases out of love and caring for that person's eternal soul. With that perspective in mind a person can deal with it on a different level.
 
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Invisible Man:
However I do think that such experiences are an exception and not the rule. I have never heard a general authority speak down to any person who is inactive or who is an exmember in talks or firesides.


In your little part of the world that might be the case. Outside of the fairly unique Mormon bubble you live in it is the rule, not the exception. It's kind of odd that you would use a General Authority as representative of the average Mormon experience.

I think I'm starting to understand what's behind some of the odd, sometimes jaw-dropping things you claim. As I mentioned in another thread, I have a pretty good idea where you post from. It's a tiny little part of the world that's a great place to visit, with an interesting culture, but is not very significant in terms of Mormon population or culture.

It seems that you make an effort to disassociate yourself and your version of Mormonism with Utah culture. In fact, in another thread you even call Utah an "aberration" in Mormon culture. If that's not an example of the tail wagging the dog I don't know what is. As you know, Utah is the heart of Mormonism. Mormonism is the headquartered in Utah. Utah gave birth (or re-birth) to Mormonism.  Almost half of the Mormon population in the World lives in Utah. An abberation? I don't think so. I think that is you're Mormon experience that's the abberation.
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Invisible Man:

That being said it needs to be remembered that the concern shown or the lecture given to the ex or post member is in most cases out of love and caring for that person's eternal soul. With that perspective in mind a person can deal with it on a different level.


I don't think it has anything to do with love.  It has to do more with fear -- fear of loss of the eternal family that is the centerpiece of the mormon religion.  Fear -- via the all too common mormon blame the victim mentality -- that the apostate family member's departure reflects some flaw in the LDS family member.  Fear that maybe, just maybe, the apostate family member is right.

To attribute the types of behavior described in this post (and in hundreds of stories posted elsewhere on the internet)  to "love" batters the definition of the word beyond all recognition.
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I've been thinking a lot about this thread, because I think there's still more to explore.

First, I was thinking this morning about the Mormon perspective when their child leaves the fold, i.e. the perspective of my in-laws.  And in all fairness to them, I remembered that there is genuine pain on their part, too.  If you believe with all your heart that the only course for happiness is obedience to the commandments, adhering to the words of the prophets, fulfilling your duty here on earth and thus finding acceptance at last in the arms of God....then it would be a source of genuine pain if you believed a child of your own had made choices that would deny them that happiness.  And worse, that would condemn them to an eternity of suffering.

It would not be unlike the pain a parent suffers when they watch their child make choices that lands them in prison.  As a parent, you know full well the suffering that your own flesh-and-blood will endure, and the happiness that they may never know.  And worse...you would always be second-guessing yourself, wondering where you went wrong such that you failed to engender in that child a sense of right from wrong.  You failed as a parent.

That suffering on the part of the faithful members with regard to their wayward children is equally painful.  Perhaps more so, when I think about it, because they believe that the suffering of their child is of an eternal nature, while the wayward child probably knows that the suffering they endure is only of a temporal nature.  They may also suffer from the fear of judgement when it is revealed in the last days that "they didn't do all they could have done to teach their child."  There is always "more" that could be done, and as parents, we know that feeling intimately.

In my mind, this is part of the insidiousness of the culture.  It gives people no real choice to think and explore for themselves in safety.  You explore and think, and you subject yourself and the ones you love to great emotional pain.  Only by staying the course can you protect your family from that pain, but at what emotional cost to yourself?

From the faithful perspective, though, there is no other way to view the choices of people who leave the fold.  They have made--at worst--a wicked choice, and at best--an unwise choice.  As human beings, we cannot HELP but view people who make wicked choices or unwise choices as inferior somehow.  I believe (as I've said many times elsewhere on this forum), that this is a biologically based phenomenon, designed to protect ourselves by distancing from people or things that we believe will harm us.  By viewing apostates as failures, wicked, inferior or any other descriptor you feel is appropriate, they are justified in their distancing behavior.  They are not in any way obligated to sit and listen to the poison that would invariably spew from our mouths, for doing so might cause them to suffer the same death that we have experienced.  They consider themselves actually wise to hold us at arm's length...even if we are their children.  

It's not their fault.

It's deeply ingrained in the culture.  Invisible Man is right in this regard...church members are not "taught" to be this way.  They don't have to be.  The culture of the church is such that people naturally line up this way.  The psychology of group-think ensures that the pressure is brought to bear from inside the culture, and the leadership never has to say a thing.

Still, it is for that reason that Mormons struggle to be empathic toward the pain that former Mormons experience.  They can't understand it, because:

1)  They don't understand the grief of losing your world view;
2)  They assume we leave for less than noble reasons, i.e. WoW problems, adultery, pornography, offense from a leader, or that we just can't live up to the standards;
3)  They measure our success in this life according to the single standard of "do you live the gospel?".  Nothing else matters;
4)  They are justified in their OWN pain, and can't see through it to acknowledge ours.

Anyway, that's how it seems to me....
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Amen, Peter Mary.
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