Last we left off, it was April of last year and I was attempting to throw a copy of the Book of Mormon at some missionaries. At this time, I was also preparing to spend my summer in Paris, France and had my sights set on goals that had nothing to do with religion. I still volunteered every Tuesday with the missionaries, sometimes played volleyball with them on their PDays, and went to their ASL class every week. I found myself seeing them a lot and talking about religion – way more than I had in the past 8 years. I can’t remember most of our conversations during this time, but looking back on old letters and e-mails, it was clear that they at least got me thinking about my relationship with our Heavenly Father. I must have said every day, “If God hates my family, then I don’t want to have a relationship with him.” Elder C also reminded me every time that God did not hate my family.
What I remember most about this time was that the Elders gave me the tools I needed to ask questions again. I was asking them questions about their faith and realized I didn’t know the answers to them in “my own” church. (Even though I left the church when I was 16 and just about every aspect of it felt foreign and uncomfortable, I still referred to the Catholic Church as my church.) I found myself asking my parents the same questions I was asking the Elders and suddenly realized how very lost I felt. For the first time in a very long time, I couldn’t find an answer – I really didn’t even know if I could find a question – and it was extraordinarily unsettling. The Elders asked if I believed in God and I felt like they punched me in the gut. Good starting point, huh?
I also threw a lot of temper tantrums during this time. I felt powerless when I couldn’t answer questions and instead of participating in a discussion to actually learn something, I crossed my legs, crossed my arms and looked somewhere else. Keep in mind that half of this companionship is deaf. Putting my hands away and looking somewhere else was the hearing equivalent of sticking your fingers in your ears and yelling, “I’M NOT LISTENING! I’M NOT LISTENING!”
Everything I knew about Mormonism (oh yeah, absolutely nothing) was based solidly in uninformed stereotypes. I thought all religious people were morons and that no matter what, my family would never be good enough. I know I’ve repeated that sentiment a few times now. I thought this was my only basis for defending myself against perceived religious bigotry. The good news is that someone will come along and shatter that illusion – thank you, God, for her.
Around this time, I started doing a little research on my own. I didn’t tell the Elders, of course, because I didn’t want them to think even for one second that I was interested in “learning.” I wanted to find ammunition to use against them the next time they wanted to talk about their church – I needed to find anything that would show them how clueless they were and that my way was really the right way. I read a lot of anti-Mormon blogs and news articles about the church’s relationship with Prop 8. I read a lot from people who became disillusioned by the church and left angry and hurt. While these articles did stroke my “of course, I’m right!” ego, it didn’t actually answer anything for me. So, smugly, I kept looking.
In this search, I found Feminist Mormon Housewives. When I think about what I was searching to have come across this blog, I must have thought to myself, “there must be some liberal Mormons out there.” Whabam, FMH. I was a nervous lurker for a while. I poked around different articles, read about the church based on different themes, and found some comfort for some of the angst I had been feeling. I felt a little bit like I had stumbled on some deep secret – I found a community of men and women who were faithful to their church and faithful to their feminist ideology. On one hand, I was so confused about how these religious people could also be so intelligent. On the other hand, I secretly felt liberated from the self-imposed fallacy that I couldn’t be intelligent and religious. It felt really good.
But I was not about to tell anyone what I had found.
Next up, finding missionaries in Paris.
With so much love,
The Lady Mo