Where is the outrage?

Where is the outrage?

depression

Earlier this week, the Mormon Newsroom released a statement regarding the potential end to the long-standing Boy Scouts of America (BSA)-LDS Church partnership, citing the recent decision to allow openly gay men to serve in leadership positions. As discussions popped up across social media, individuals in favour of the split reasoned that those who are attracted to the sex of the minors should not be in isolated situations with them. Many assured me their concerns were not due to prejudice and bigotry. In fact, they would be the same if men were to oversee and be in isolated situations with young women.

The problem with this assertion is, of course, that LDS men are frequently in isolated situations with young women and hardly anyone bats an eye.

It has been a little over 11 years since, as a teenager, my single’s ward bishop asked to meet with me after church. I obliged. Once behind closed doors, he asked if he could give me a worthiness interview. Confused at the timing (I was not in need of a temple recommend renewal, nor was I to receive a new calling), I again obliged. As he went through the temple recommend questions, special emphasis was placed on the question regarding the Law of Chastity. I responded that I did, indeed, keep the law of chastity. As a never-been-kissed, always-careful-to-double-date young woman, there was little doubt in my mind that I was chaste and pure before God.

Unfortunately, my answer was not sufficient for my bishop, even after pointing out my very limited physical contact with the young men I had dated. He asked if he could clarify the question and then became more specific. “Had I touched anyone in their sacred or private parts?” “Had anyone else touched me in my sacred or private parts?” “Had I touched myself in my sacred or private parts?” To each, the response was “no” because I knew I had not broken any commandments regarding chastity, but behind every no was a heap of questions. Why was he asking me these questions? What did all of this even mean? Did he mean hygienic touching? Gynecological exams? Changing my baby brother’s diaper?

I know some readers may believe me to have been naive and they are right–as a young woman with very little sexual exposure and even less dialogue around sex, I was very naive. And innocent. And so very much like my other uber-concerned-about-being-righteous church mates. Unfortunately, I was also in the presence of a man and sexual talk with men was verboten. Unfortunately, he was also my priesthood leader so he was given official sanction to have this conversation. Unfortunately, I believed that since God had called him to this position, called him to conduct this interview and called him to go off-book, God and my bishop must know something that I don’t know about my sexual purity.

As I left church that day, I felt Dirty. Shameful. Unclean. Unchaste. Unworthy. But I didn’t know why.

In the days and weeks following that interview, symptoms of an anxiety disorder began to appear–unexplained stomach aches, night sweats, night terrors, loss of appetite and an overall fixation on ridding myself of this horrible, icky feeling inside of me. Week after week I would dread going to church, but would do so because I so desperately wanted to feel clean. Week after week I would head into my bishop’s office to try to find out what I had done wrong, confessing every inkling of an impure thought in hopes that it would make me feel better. Every week he turned me out of his office again, having heard my mildly lurid confession, just to see me again the next week. Every week I felt more and more trapped and more and more unworthy.

It wasn’t until a decade following this incident that I realized what happened and the guilt and shame finally subsided–that interview was inappropriate. Taking girls and women behind closed doors with middle-aged men, asking about sex and masturbation, is perverse. It’s abusive. And it’s upheld, even required, by the Church I trusted to keep me safe.

There is a big conversation to be had about keeping our young men safe and I can understand parents are concerned about the perceived threat to their sons. What I can’t understand is the lack of outrage about the threat of abuse right under our noses. As the Newsroom releases statements about our young men with the overtone that it is for their safety, I wonder, “where are the releases about protecting our girls?” “Where is the acknowledgement that this abuse happens every. single. week under the guise of righteousness?” “Why are the same people who are concerned about the possibility of the abuse of their sons so dismissive when I mention the very real abuse of their daughters?” “Why am I told that I should have known better and taken measures to protect my young, innocent self?” “Why does no one seem to notice or even care about our girls?”

I wish my answers didn’t always dead end with the fear that we don’t notice or care about our girls because we don’t actually notice or care about our girls.

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Anger

Anger is something I don’t do well. When I get angry, one of two things happens. I get emotional and cry, and no one takes me seriously; or I swallow it, and no one even knows I’m mad, and I wallow in it for days. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately because later this week I will have to see someone who I used to be very angry with, for the first time since they hurt me. I’m very nervous about how I am going to react.

I learned a lot of my non-coping strategies from the culture of the LDS church; as a woman, but especially as a Mormon woman, I’ve been taught my whole life to avoid conflict, to be nice, to deffer to authority especially when I disagree, and to swallow my negative emotions. In writing this post I looked up as many references to anger by general authorities as I could find. Unsurprisingly, they were all either about how we need to choose not to be angry, or warnings about the evils of anger. For example:

“Anger is the mother of a whole brood of evil actions” (Gordon B. Hinckley, 2007)

“If we desire to have a proper spirit with us at all times, we must choose to refrain from becoming angry” (Thomas S. Monson, 2009)

I absolutely agree that anger can be damaging, and in many instances, dangerous. However, I feel that simply telling people that anger is bad and they should try not to feel it is not the answer. Emotions happen. They are a reality. Even when we are at our best, they run away with us. What we should be teaching people is that Anger is part of the human experience, and giving them tools to cope with it when it does inevitably come up.

Besides, anger can be positive when it can be channeled in to productive directions. For example, my neighbor with a special-needs child has been able to turn her anger at a system that disadvantages her child in to advocacy for many families in similar situations. It can be a great source of motivation for change.

What do you do when you get angry? Have you ever turned the experience in to a positive?

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Introducing our Heavenly Mother’s Day Series

CW: Suicidal thoughts

I moved to Oakland five years ago. One of my first outings in the Bay Area was a gathering at Carol Lynn Pearson’s house where she gave each of us copies of her play, Mother Wove the Morning. It sat on my shelf for months because I didn’t want to open up Heavenly Mother-less wound I had.

When I finally read it, half a year later, I discovered that I was right in that it was an intense experience. I loved reading it and yet I ached. I wanted a relationship with Heavenly Mother, but I didn’t know how. Unfortunately the bigger question for me was “why.” Why should I have a relationship with Her?

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Comfort Box: The 72 Hour Kit that will save you from becoming a zombie.

 

readyforzombies

Am I prepared? Anytime I am watching a zombie apocalypse roll forth on television I question if my emergency preparedness supplies are sufficient. Would I survive or become a zombie? The ward emergency preparedness guy hides from me the week after an especially violent episode of The Walking Dead. To be fair, he has already helpfully referred me to the CDC guide to surviving zombies.

I don’t have any life experience in surviving disasters of the natural or zombie variety, but another kind of disaster rolls through my life routinely. Emotional earthquakes, fire, tsunami, tornado, or sometimes (on a slow news day) a muddy puddle are enough to knock me out. I am regularly afflicted with unwanted feelings of depression, anger, loneliness, betrayal, sadness, boredom, jealousy, or confusion.  Some days I have no idea what I am feeling. I only know that bad stuff happens and keeps happening. Too often the tornado sets me down in my own emotional zombie apocalypse.

When faced with emotional disaster, my first response is to become a zombie. I was raised in a home without healthy models of how to express and positively cope with challenging emotions. My inclination is to eat my feelings while numbing out on a binge read or a mindless Facebook game. As I compare my response to family traditions of alcoholism, drug addiction, violence, or child abuse; being an emotional zombie doesn’t seem so bad. Unfortunately, the zombie life fails to bring me lasting relief and harms my health through impaired sleep and weight gain. The unwanted feelings remain and eventually demand attention. These are the times when I turn to my emotional 72 Hour Kit: The Comfort Box.

How prepared are you for the next emotional tsunami? Will you become a zombie? Read on to learn how you can get your very own Comfort Box!

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The Church is Pro-Choice

Note: this post mentions rape, incest, abortion, stillbirth, death of infants, etc. If those topics are going to be triggering, please honor your health and pass on reading.

A few months ago, we were discussing the need for modern-day prophets in Sunday School. One woman raised her hand and said that she was grateful for modern-day revelation because of issues like abortion. I fought my urge to exclaim, “Yes! Isn’t it great that the Church is pro-choice?!” because it would really derail the lesson, so I’m going to say it here.

Isn’t it great that the Church is pro-choice?!

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A Moving Mormon Performance

I could not sleep. It was as though it was midday and had the energy of a racehorse about to take flight. empty houseBut it was really 2 AM, and I had been awake since 1AM. I had fallen asleep in utter exhaustion around 11PM, but woke at 1 …and there I remained, twitching.

 

The ghosts of the day were haunting me and tears filled my eyes. But I withheld any sound, silently weeping, trying to not wake my husband.

 

The day before had been traumatic. We had packed to move, and left our house in a state. It wasn’t untidy, but I had not the time to make all of the runs to the Salvation Army on that day, nor had I the time in the preceding days to list all that I had hoped on eBay. As a result, clusters of items I deemed valuable were in boxes, or loosely stacked piles, awaiting to be unceremoniously bagged and taken to the dump.

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