By now, you are all fully aware that I grew up Mormon. However, since it’s rarely mentioned, I didn’t just grow up as a casual Mormon. I was one of those girls who did absolutely everything I was supposed to do, down to the wearing ugly, uncomfortable, white underwear to “prepare” for my future garments. I was raised to believe everything that I was taught in church and, more importantly, I was raised to not question the authority of the church. I was often told that there were some things that I wouldn’t truly understand until I was dead.
What a load of hogwash. Of course, as an atheist, and a free-thinking adult, I recognize all of these lessons as simple forms of brainwashing. Do not question authority. Do not think on your own. Do not rely on your own intelligence. Honestly, I don’t blame my family. I blame the institution of the church for instilling these “values” into my great-grandparents, which were then passed, from generation to generation, to me.
It’s interesting, in reflecting on my life now, just how much I’ve become everything that I was taught to fear.
The church taught me to believe that rock music was evil and unedifying. I was taught that an apostle of the church sat next to Mick Jagger on the plane who admitted that his music, “…is calculated to drive the kids to sex. It’s up to them what they do. It’s not my fault. I’m just making a lot of money.” *shakes head* Although I can’t say that my affinity for hard rock music has “driven me to sex,” I can say that it helps calm my nerves, lifts my mood, and is really fucking fun to sing along with.
The church taught me to believe that there were three great threats to righteousness. “The dangers I speak of come from the gay-lesbian movement, the feminist movement (both of which are relatively new), and the ever-present challenge from the so-called scholars or intellectuals.” (Boyd K. Packer) Not surprisingly, I am a GLBT* rights advocate, an ardent feminist, and consider education to be one of the most valuable things one can constantly be striving to improve.
I was taught to cherish my virtue, my virginity, even if it meant dying for my virginity. “Also far-reaching is the effect of loss of chastity. Once given or taken or stolen it can never be regained. Even in a forced contact such as rape or incest, the injured one is greatly outraged…. It is better to die in defending one’s virtue than to live having lost it without a struggle.” (Spencer W. Kimball) Instead, I chose to have sex with a boyfriend before marriage. I even decided to live with a boyfriend before marriage, hell, even before engagement. But I knew that my choice was my right, and that, for me, choosing to be with someone, to live with someone, before marriage helped me ensure that I was choosing to marry knowing everything about my partner.
Finally, I was taught that I was defined by gender roles and stereotypes. I was taught how to bake, cook, sew, quilt, crochet, and knit while the young men my age were taught how to look for jobs, create resumes, interview, and budget. I was taught that, “Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.” (The Family: Proclamation to the World) And for years, I suffered from the guilt of not adhering to gender stereotypes and for wanting to be child-free. As an adult, I relish my identity and encourage my students to do the same. I promote acceptance of self, rather than acceptance of what is considered traditional. I have also found a mate who happily understands and supports my desire to remain child-free. We have instead created a very happy family of rescued dogs who love us unconditionally.
I became everything that I was programmed to fear. And I couldn’t be happier.