…Of a Convert

Childhood was the stuff of dreams- golden, ephemeral Maxfield Parrish dreams. Our home was built on old orchard land, in the California that used to be the fruit-basket of the state, but is now paved over and has a heart of Silicon.

Our property had plum, apricot, pear, cherry, avocado, almond, walnut, tangerine, orange and grapefruit trees- all of which found their way into my mother’s baked goods and preserves. We had chickens, rabbits, a goat (who once tried to eat my snarled mess of curly blonde hair) and a dozen dogs, which my dad used for hunting, as well as our pets. From the trappings of nature, my brothers’ and I created entire worlds in the yard. My aunt and her family lived one house down and my grandma only a few minutes beyond. Doors were always open; it was the upbringing many of us hope to give our children.

Since I have joined the Church, my family barely tolerates my presence.

My mother told me I could not be both Mormon and her daughter. She believes I have been brainwashed, am brainwashing my children and am ruining my family. My brothers think I have lost my mind, and blame me for the loss of harmony and love formerly present at family gathering. What once was a bastion of love, safety and support is now a hornets-nest of distrust and anger.

And yet I stay.

Not only do I stay, but my husband has been baptized as well, been ordained an Elder and is serving in a presidency. And we are not “joiners” of things- so the fact that we are here is a testament in and of itself. We are not the first family in history to have to make this choice. But we are the first in my family- and given what I’ve lost, it is very personal to me.

When I read, over and over, posts tearing apart the ideology and ideals of this church, my belly starts to burn. Critical thought, examination and introspection are wonderful human characteristics, and ones we are blessed to exercise. While I realize people need a forum to discuss thier critical concerns, it seems the line between civil discourse and contentious criticism becomes too often obscured in the bloggernacle.

This Church is the best thing we have, imperfect though it may be.

This Church is run by men, however inspired, currently or historically, they are still men, with feet of clay just like the rest of us. Because we are a church run by human beings, we make mistakes- sometimes big mistakes. No mistake, no matter what, changes the “rocks” this church was founded upon; Salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ, and the forgiveness for our human foibles found therein.

The principles we are taught are good ones- be kind, share with others, give to the less fortunate, take care of your bodies, love your family, be faithful, strive to improve, be honest, treasure your children, live within your means, be prepared, and so on… does the perfection of the men who teach these principles really matter? Find me a better ideal, anywhere.

I went to a lot of churches before I arrived here. (If you want more of my back-story, you can read it here and here, written during a guest stint at FMH.) There are a lot of good people out there, and if we are guilty of anything, it is monocular vision to our own point of view. That said, this Church is full of people who strive to practice what they preach. Full of people who live what they believe, and not just on Sundays. At FHE, YM, YW, and at Scouting, at presidency meetings, at the storehouse, the cannery and the family history center, I see individuals and families trying to live the teachings of the Savior.

At Fast and Testimony meetings, I often sit quietly in my seat (well, as quietly as I can with three small children)- just listening to the warm and wonderful oddball mix of testimonies. Only twice have I been moved enough to actually climb the steps of the dais and stand trembling before the podium. People often say versions of the same things when they get up there, and it’s not for me to even have an opinion of what someone else constitutes as “testimony”- but I have found I cannot make the same words others make. What I have been able to say, with deep, profound certaintly is this:

Everything in my life is better since I joined this Church. Every thing. Even the personal trials with my family are worth it- they are a refining fire, and have shown me what is important, and where I stand. What I have been given is priceless.

In this fallen world we live in, how can we do any better than that?

Comments

  1. Thank you. You express my heart very well.

  2. Steve Evans says:

    A very pretty post, Tracy — thanks. Can I ask — not everyone makes the choice that you do. Some choose not to join the Church. A man I knew on my mission was given the choice, by his wife, of staying married or joining the Church. He stayed married, and spoke with us with sadness from time to time. But he didn’t regret his choice. What do you make of such people?

  3. When I was making my journey back to the church, I had a family to lift me up(in fact it was my parents greatest wish). For you to sacrifice your family relationships for the light of the gospel is truly inspiring. Thanks you.

    BTW, is there any particular reason(doctrinal or otherwise) your family feels the way they do?

  4. Thank you Matt.

    Steve- I don’t know. I suppose it’s just another way to exercise agency- perhaps his desire for peace in his home was greater than his desire (or will) to tackle the upheaval opposed membership brings. It’s such a profoundly personal thing.

    My feelings were (and still are) that because of the resolution, answers and sense of completion I found in the Gospel, my family should just have been happy for me- that they chose not not be is more about them and their desires than it is about real love for me. That’s been a hard one to swallow, believe me. I’ve had to face the fact that their apparent comfort level is more important to them than my happiness. It has forced me to grow up more completely, to take stock of my life aside from my family’s approval, and stand on my own.

    Not everyone wants to do that. It’s uncomfortable, and difficult.

    The thing is, I while I can’t stand up and say I have a testimony of everything in the Church, what I DO know for sure is, I had enough things shown to me that there was NO WAY I could turn my back. It would have been the desolution of my soul.

    That made my choice pretty easy.

  5. cjdouglas- Thank you. No particluar reason- we were not raised with any religion at all. There a lot of the popular, easy to accept jargon about religion being a crutch, God not existing, Jesus was just a man, the scripture are politik, people of faith are backward and uneducated, etc…

    The general consensus is that I have lost my mind, given up my identity, changed my personality and viewpoint (facts and experience notwhithstanding) and am now allowing someone else to think for me. It makes me very sad.

  6. Great story Tracy. I am sorry to hear your family has rejected you for your love of the Gospel.

  7. how long ago were you baptized, tracy? my family completely disowned me for a while, not even allowing contact with my minor sister. they’ve lightened up since then, but still think i’ve been brainwashed and in an effort to keep harmony, we just don’t ever discuss religion. in an effort to see where i was coming from, a few years back, my mom agreed to read something about the church, but it had to be her choosing. “one nation under gods.” ick. she claims it was presented to her by friends as being “very objective and unbiased.” right.

    i feel like we make a lot of concessions to be a part of their religious experience (attending mass for family events, for example), but they have yet to respond in kind, even boycotting baby blessings. it’s just best if no one discusses anything about the lds church, which saddens me. i feel your pain.

  8. Kevin Barney says:

    Very nice, Tracy M. This reminded me of the speech made by the little Mormon boy at the end of the “All About Mormons” episode of South Park (immediately preceding the infamous final words of the episode, “suck my balls”), about how much the church has meant to the quality of life of his family and of him.

    Often what happens in these family dynamics is that, over time, the family can see from experience how positive an influence the church has been, and they soften their negative views of it being a cult or whatever. I get the impression from your comments that there has been no softening of attitude on the part of your family; that is unfortunate, but I’m glad you have the strength not to require their approval for your choice (and it does take genuiine strength).

  9. It’s been four years.

    I too, when around my family, just don’t talk about it anymore, and try to be as inoffensive as possible, to keep the peace.

    Kevin- that is my hope, that time will show them I am still me, and my life is good. (I’ve always wanted to see that South Park, but never caught it!)

  10. Tracy M.

    I have a wonderful friend who had to make a similar choice–she literally had to sneak from her house to her baptism. People like you and her strike me as heroes who pay a terrible price–your testimony lends strength to mine. thanks for sharing.

  11. Bob Martin says:

    A member friend, whose parents are Catholic, told me recently that his mother once expressed to him what she considered to be her failure as a parent: had she been a better parent, he would not have left the Catholic faith. He told her she was mistaken, that it was the good she taught him that led him to love the good of Mormonism.

    Jesus said this hard thing: “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” (Matt. 10:37). Hard, but, if you think about it, it has to be true. Abraham, father of the faithful, had to do what you have done, and God honored and blessed him for it. To do as you have done is to be like Abraham.

    Among the arguments made to prove that Mormonism is a cult is that we alienate children from their parents. They (and perhaps your parents) assume that, if we love Christ more, then we must love our parents less. The paradox is that one who loves Christ more will therefore love her parents more. Not quite the same idea, but similar enough to be worth sharing is this poem by Richard Lovelace (1618-1658):

    To Lucasta, going to the Wars
    .
    Tell me not, Sweet, I am unkind,
    That from the nunnery
    Of thy chaste breast and quiet mind
    To war and arms I fly.
    .
    True, a new mistress now I chase,
    The first foe in the field;
    And with a stronger faith embrace
    A sword, a horse, a shield.
    .
    Yet this inconstancy is such
    As thou too shalt adore;
    I could not love thee, Dear, so much,
    Loved I not Honour more.
    .
    It is likely that your parents will someday appreciate and admire the “inconstancy” of your adhering to the gospel.

    Sorry for offering moral support–it wasn’t your intention to solicit it. You meant, by calling attention to the sacrifices of converts, to sensitize those who, in becoming more sophisticated in their faith, may have become less faithful and less appreciative of the good they have. It’s a valid point. Nephi warned, “When they are learned they think they are wise, and hearken not unto the counsel of God.” (2 Nephi 9:28). We hear less often what Nephi continued to say: “To be learned is good if they hearken unto the counsels of God.” (2 Nephi 9:29). The trick is to be a critical thinker without losing one’s grip on his or her faith. This looks to me to be a site where people are trying to do that.

  12. A wonderful, heartrending post.

    You help us see what is usually unseen. When the new members come into sacrament meeting, we don’t see the heartache, the strains in family ties, the challenge that changing their religion has caused. It shows again how important it is to be a friend, to love and support and welcome those who have made the remarkable choice to come into the church.

    Thanks, Tracy.

  13. Tracy,

    I’m reminded of the ending of Fiddler on the Roof when Tevye and Golda’s third daughter who has married outside the faith, stops by with her husband on their way out of town, due to the eviction of Jews order. Tevye who has remarked earlier that his daughter is “dead” due to her marriage, this time softens and makes the comment “and God be with you.”

    Ostracism rears its ugly head in many forms with many examples expressed here on the ‘naccle. I hope for a softening akin to that expressed by Tevye, from your family to you. Your strength and courage are remarkable and can be likened to the early pioneers; for you are one.

    So many of us seem to miss out on the most fundamental of joys offered in the “Plan”; those that come from meaningful relationships. Again, I hope your parents recognize this sooner than later and lead your siblings along that better path.

    Thank-you too for your reminder that Church leaders are men doing the very best they can and who fall short from time to time, and for the strength you have added to my testimony by you bearing yours.

  14. Elephant Mayan says:

    For you to sacrifice your family relationships for the light of the gospel is truly inspiring.

    that, in a nutshell, is the very basis for much of the family strife that i have observed. where there is diversity in belief, many mormons support the sacrifice of the family. i think that is sad. i think it is too common.

    how is it noble for one to sacrifice family to participate in the mormon faith where sacrificing family relationships for another faith is not? is it because the faith is true but the family is not? is that the message?

    perhaps the “families are forever” message needs a revision: “active mormon families are forever.” though, that probably needs some revision for redundancy, after all, a non-mormon or inactive-mormon family or family member aint *really* family, right?

  15. Elephant Mayan- I am not noble nor sacrificing my family. I have a faith in something they don’t like. Period. I love my family, and include them still in my life as much as they will partake. My family are the ones who have chosen to withdraw from me, not the other way around. I wish they would just love me, and not take my beliefs to be a rejection of thier beleifs. I can’t speak for others, but I don’t care what they beleive in- I would love them no matter what.

  16. I appreciate what you share about your family, Tracy M, because your family situation is so similar to mine. My family thinks I have been brainwashed and fears for my future children. At first the only way to have peace at family gatherings was for me to remain silent while they insulted and condescended to me…and blamed me for the loss of harmony. Now it’s a little better, as long as no one brings up religion. Right alongside you I can say that my family are the ones who chose to withdraw from me, and I can only wish they wouldn’t take my beliefs to be a rejection of their beliefs. The principles you mention, which I learned from my family and at church, are still my cherished principles by which I try to live my daily life. But my family still doesn’t quite see that my principles are unchanged, even though it’s been three years since a bishop misinterpreted my clear “no contact” request as a name removal request and I chose not to fight it. Like you, the part of this experience I can be grateful for is how much choosing a path my family disapproves of has forced me to grow up and be my own person. Thank you for sharing.

  17. Tracy,

    Wonderful post. I appreciate your exp. No wonder Steve Evans was looking for you to do some posts.

    In the 1850’s in Denmark my Benson Ancestors were baptized in the dead of night in a hole cut in the ice on their farm pond. A short while later a mob came and burned their house down acording to my greatgrandmas journal. They picked up and moved to Zion.

    I would expect that some day the love that your family members have for you will overcome their revulsion at your religious choices.

  18. Thank you for sharing your story!

    Your comments about oppostions and testimony meetings and your observation about imperfect leaders, foundational “rocks,” and salvation in Christ, This Church is run by men, however inspired, currently or historically, they are still men, with feet of clay just like the rest of us. Because we are a church run by human beings, we make mistakes- sometimes big mistakes. No mistake, no matter what, changes the “rocks” this church was founded upon; Salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ, and the forgiveness for our human foibles found therein.

    uncannily echo Russell M. Nelson’s comments about the root of truth,

    The second root is the root of truth. It is a very powerful anchor, but must be part of the member before it has any holding force. A firm foundation of faith is laid in the excellent word of the scriptures, the standard works. The foundation includes an understanding of deity, with Jesus Christ as the chief cornerston. Paul emphasized the need to be rooted in Christ. The work of Joseph Smith is at the foundation of our faith. Priesthood authority is essential in the government of the Church.

    When members know and assert these fundamentals, their own root of truth digs into the soil and wraps around these cornerstones to securely embrace that firm foundation. Each time a testimony is expressed, this root is strengthened.

    Those who oppose the Church attack this root of truth. They generally focus most cunningly at the target of priesthood authority simply because leaders are human and imperfect. The Master chose to administer His affairs by giving authority to ordinary men. He identified them as “the weak things of the earth.” [D&C 35:13] Yet he empowered them to thrash the nations by His Spirit. [D&C 133:59]

    (GenCon 4/1985, Leadership Session)

    I was born in the Church and had a testimony from my teen years, but was converted about twelve years ago. Since then, I’ve lost some relationships but have found a wonderful peace and joy in my life. As I wrote elsewhere, “I lost my old fascination with mysteries, historical challenges, debates, and empirical evidences. They’re somewhat interesting intellectually but spending a lot of time on them that could be used to help people now seems to be a symptom of someone, who lacks sufficiency, trying to prove what he doubts. My answer anymore is “Hey, God gave me a new heart, He healed my soul, and I have this nagging sense of well-being. I know this and I’m no longer interested in doubting what I do not know.” Having tasted the infinite healing power of the atonement and having the Spirit open new understandings of the heart to me, the debates that used to fascinate me now seem like lesser lights preoccupied with lesser subjects. Far better to ask what we can learn about God and ourselves from an issue than to wonder whether He got this one right. Even cases in which the Church, leaders, members, or anyone else may be late or err don’t concern me anymore because they do not affect the healing I enjoy and that others can have. I’ve learned that God’s love truly is the most joyous to the soul and that lesser issues don’t take it from me.”

    May God bless your family with a reunion in Christ sometime in the future.

  19. Tracy,
    Thank you for this post. I remember several families I taught as a missionary who would progress until their extended family “intervened”. After that we were no longer welcome in the family’s home. Your story is an inspiring one and you are absolutely right regarding who’s decision it is to “ostracize” you.

    I come from a “pioneer stock” family on both sides who joined the church in the 1830’s to the 1860’s. They had their sacrifice to pay with their extended families and the trek across the plains etc.. Which I am very grateful for. I have always looked with awe at people like yourself who are in every way as much a pioneer as my 1830’s ancestors were.

    One lesson my mother taught me by example was to express your love to your family even when they may not be receiving it to well. I have a brother who when he was in his teens and early twenties he basically denied everything he had been taught and lived a lifestyle not to conducive to the teachings of the savior. My mother just continued to love him as if he were like any of the rest of her children. Eventually he came home to his roots and is now serving in a bishopric and has sent all 4 of his children on missions.

    So I say to you Tracy just shower your family with love even though they may not be to receptive to it now. Eventually they will accept you for who you have chosen to become.

  20. Tracy, I’m intrigued by this part of your post as well:

    When I read, over and over, posts tearing apart the ideology and ideals of this church, my belly starts to burn. Critical thought, examination and introspection are wonderful human characteristics, and ones we are blessed to exercise. While I realize people need a forum to discuss their critical concerns, it seems the line between civil discourse and contentious criticism becomes too often obscured in the bloggernacle.

    First, I haven’t read very many posts in the bloggernacle that would tear apart the ideals of the church — what did you have in mind when you wrote this?

    Second, this paragraph seems to kind of say that there’s rarely occasion to criticize as a church member. Is that true? It almost sounds like, in a way, as if you are using your experience of becoming a member as a means to seal off certain topics or approaches from discussion. Could you clarify a little more what you meant?

  21. Tracy,

    Your post is quite touching. When I joined the church at the age of 21, I had friends say they couldn’t be my friends anymore. My parents thought I had joined a “cult” and that I now worshipped Adam. They came around fairly quickly and I never suffered any “disowning” at their hands but religion was an uncomfortable subject for more than a decade. My wife’s LDS parents, however, embraced me as the son they never had.

    Now, as I find myself disaffected with the LDS church, my true-believing mother-in-law thinks I have the devil in me and hasn’t spoken to me in months. I have seen good friends of mine who have re-examined their personal faith and chosen to cut back their activity in the LDS church be on the receiving end of shunning and “barely tolerating their presence” type actions from their family. I have experienced firsthand and secondhand the tremendous pain that is inflicted when family members of one faith withhold their love and acceptance from a family member who, for personal reeasons, rejects that faith. As for me, I will love my children no matter the spiritual path they choose. I agree with Layne: shower your family with love.

  22. Thank you Tracy. We all need more posts like this.

  23. Re: 21

    It should come as no surprise to anyone that decisions to join the church or leave the church will be highly difficult for those close to a person who have an emotional stake in that choice. And while I’d never advocate shunning or ostracizing, I don’t think that reaction is beyond normal human behavior for any society.

  24. Care to elaborate, jimbob?

  25. Tracy,
    Thanks for sharing this. It’s an inspiration.

    As an aside, it took me a long time before I felt I could say the things people often said in their testimonies. Your example of moving forward in faith even when there are still questions is inspiring. And I think it’s not so uncommon. Testimonies are often a drop-by-drop experience. At least that has been the case for me for much of my life.

  26. Care to elaborate, jimbob?

    Not really, but I rarely can stop myself.

    All I’m saying is if a group has a certain set of ideals which they consider sacrosanct, and a trusted member of that group abandons or violates those ideals, there’s going to be sadness and bitterness by the group towards the member. And you don’t need a sociology degree to know that that often manifests itself in witholding love and affection or more aggressive and coercive behaviors.

    Again, I’m not advocating these behaviors, I’m just pointing out that these seem like pretty normal reactions for human nature. It’s why the angst over at RfM over a spouse joining the church is remarkably similar to my family’s angst at one of my nephews leaving the church. And the same reactions could occur outside the church context, like, say, for an Irish Catholic to move to Britain to join the Anglican church or for a kid whose parents have a high esteem for higher education to chooses to be an uneducated garbageman. If you choose to live outside the ideals of the group, you risk the group not wanting you in the group anymore, or at least treating you badly when you are with them.

  27. This Church is run by men, however inspired, currently or historically, they are still men, with feet of clay just like the rest of us. Because we are a church run by human beings, we make mistakes- sometimes big mistakes. No mistake, no matter what, changes the “rocks” this church was founded upon; Salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ, and the forgiveness for our human foibles found therein.

    I am sorry about your family, Tracy. I am touched by the humanity of your post.

    I am troubled, however, that you are not considering the consequences of mortal fallibility. When mortals make mistakes then they need to be held accountable, especially when someone suffers. Otherwise, victims have to bear the burden by themselves. That’s not what Christ had in mind.

    Priesthood abuse is serious. It alters people’s life. Occasionally, it even destroys life. To get an idea of what is involved you might want to read the case files of the Mormon Alliance.

    It is true that we find similar abuse in many organizations. The difference between good institutions, such as democracies, and bad institutions, such as dictatorships, is not the absence of abuse but the possibility to hold abusers accountable, however powerful they may be.

    Unfortunately, we are not very good when it comes to holding our leaders accountable. There are many human institutions that are outperforming us on that score, which means that there are a lot of Saints who are hurt needlessly.

    In light of Christ’s charge to be Good Samaritans, we cannot possibly settle for that state of affairs. That’s why I am willing to say things that you might find troubling.

    In my mind, that is what the Savior expects of us.

  28. Beijing, Manaen, Bbell, Llayne- thank you all for your kind words-

    Steve: There was no post or person in particular I was thinking of- more of a general air I have caught here and there. I know that’s vague, but I kind of work on impulses and feelings- I’m not a very logical person, as my husband will robustly attest.

    There have been many a discussion on the Priesthood, Righteousness, Women’s issues (which is where I mostly take part and where I mostly read-)- particularly women’s issues, and at times, I feel the moaning and groaning is a little self-absorbed. Be so grateful for what you have! I want to cry out.

    As far as criticism of a church member- we are all individuals, and have at it, on an individual level. I don’t have any doors closed as far as discussion- as a matter of fact, I have many a door open still that the Church does not- and I’m OK with that- and don’t, personally, feel the need to bring others around to my way of thinking.

    Does that clarify a little?

  29. jimbob is right- group bitterness goes both ways.

  30. Hellmut- we must have been posting at the same time- I agree with what you have said, actually. If there is ever a person who promotes abuse, they should be held accountable. And, if they have violated the law, they should be prosecuted according to the laws of the land. In no way did I mean to imply eccliastical immunity.

    I was thinking of things much more mundane… offenses over things said, dress codes, WoW issues- that sort of thing. If I know I’m 4×4 with the Lord, I don’t really worry about what my local leaders think- but then again, I haven’t yet had any conflicts arrise, so maybe this is the possition of a very young, inexperienced member. Not ruling that out, either.

    But for now, here I stand.

  31. JimBob I get what your saying.

    As I read this post and the comments, I could very closely relate because I have received similar attitudes/ostricization(sp?) from my family because of my political beliefs. The belittle me and my husband for our political views, causing unholy contention, then blame us for disrupting the family.

    So, Tracy, I can sort of empathize with what you go through (though I think the emotional toll is somewhat different when religion is involved), and I was very touched by your testimony of the church. I love the gospel, but I struggle with the church sometimes, and I found this uplifting.

  32. Thanks, Tracy. The other reason why I might say things that you might find troubling might be that I am occasionally wrong.

  33. I wanted to add that at first, my family had a really hard time with my beliefs. Only my dad and mom came to my wedding from my family, and it took a lot of bending on both our parts to get to a happy middle ground. Both sides have pretty much had to make the decision to be ecumenical (not wear our religion on our sleaves) for our relationship to work. Of course, since my dad is Methodist, and my mom is Catholic, and My brother is Atheist, and My sister is Amazing, this comes a bit easier for us than most. I can’t say I have been able to take the same road with others. It works in my family because none of us our saying “I am right and thus you are wrong.” The problem is that if even one person in a relationship takes this attitude, it seems to break the relationship for all parties.

    As an aside, my mission president was a convert and when he joined the church his buddy, a baptist minister, told him that the mormon church would brainwash him into doing anything they wanted. My mission president loved to say:

    “He was right, they got me to come to the philippines for three years.”

  34. Tracy, I appreciate your post. I think it’s essential that we celebrate the positive in our experience of the church. And I’m sorry that your family experience has been as difficult as it has since your conversion. I feel that I can genuinely empathize about this, since my wife and I have experienced similar family disruptions related to church issues — from both my believing relatives and her non-Mormon parents.

    At the same time, I think it’s essential for us to realize that many people’s experience of the church is much less positive, for one reason or another. Very few of us have an experience that is only positive. Furthermore, it’s not always clear that the positives and the negatives are comparable. If someone believes the church to be wrong about sex roles, for example, it’s unclear that the church’s welfare work or strong sense of community compensate. The perceived injustice in such cases may seem to occupy an entirely separate dimension from all of the positives. If that is the case, then people might simultaneously be grateful for the good things in their Mormon experience and profoundly troubled by the problems they see.

  35. My parents, also, were very much against my joining the church. Over time that has gradually changed. I can speak about the church now and my mother does not get angry as she once did. She even donated money for tsunami relief to the church humanitarian aid fund, because I had (when explaining my own choice) told her how every bit of the money goes to those who need it, and all the administrative time and effort is donated by members. Also, I explained that we had local people in the area who were members, who saw the needs and reported them, so that our money went to those who actually needed it most. She was impressed by that, I think. It took about five years, but eventually my family’s opposition eased.

    Tracy, thank you for your post. Do pour out love on your family. In time, I hope their hearts will soften, as did those of my parents.

  36. Great post, Tracy.

    It was hard for me not to be insulted with some of the reactions I got from family members when I joined the church. Did they not know and trust me to have made a good decision for myself?

  37. This week I met a young adult Jewish convert at Institute, and she talked about being ostracized by her parents.

    I was already independent and living on my own about 6 hours drive away from my family when I joined the church, so my relationship with my family didn’t change when I joined the church at age 24.

    But when I was 14 I joined another church and became a “Jesus-freak” (it was in the early 70’s). That really ticked off my inactive-Jewish father who had been on the receiving end of religious discrimination and bigotry both in the workplace and by my mom’s Presbyterian family.

    There was no religion in the house I grew up in. And when friends invited me to their church, I think it started me on a search to fill that void about the meaning of life.

    No one can hurt you like family can. When a family member embraces a new faith, the others feel abandoned, as if their beliefs weren’t good enough for you anymore. Embracing another faith is literally a rejection of the beliefs of the other family members. And often, the choice is made without advance notice or consultation of the others, which increases the feeling of rejection.

    The church I joined at age 14 did not think it necessary for me to get parental permission, so that increased my father’s hatred.

    But I think it’s a bit immature, selfish and arrogant on the part of family members who belittle or ostracize the one who went searching and embraced a new belief. It definitely shows a lack of respect, but it’s typical of parents’ or older siblings’ attitude towards the children or younger siblings.

    It’s not wicked to sincerely embrace a new religion. What I think is wicked is trying to force the conscience of someone else, which is what my father tried to do, and is essentially what “disowning” is.

  38. Bless your heart, wish you well and enjoyed this post.

  39. jothegrill says:

    My mother mentioned yesterday that it had been 31 years since she was baptized. She waited until she was 18 because she knew it was against her parents’ wishes. She feels a lot like you do Tracy. She sees that there are problems with this church, or at least problems with our understanding of it. But her testimony and the truth and joy that she has found in it are the greatest thing in her life. I’m so grateful that she stuck it out. I can’t imagine what life would be like if she just gave in to family pressure. Hang in there. It will make a world of difference to your children. God bless you.

  40. “Hang in there. It will make a world of difference to your children. God bless you.”

    I love this sentiment.

    I also wanted to express my sympathy for the trials you have in your family because of your faith. As was said above, God bless you!

  41. susan summed up my feelings well. did my family think i was a complete and mindless moron? did they really think i’d do something that was so horrific in their minds?!

    i understand where tracy is coming from about how others treat the church. it’s hard to feel as though you’ve sacrificed the dearest thing you have (read: familial relationships) for something that others slander or don’t appreciate or just merely question. that feeling gives me perspective when dealing with my mother, the only religious one of the family. she had a horrible childhood and took great solace in her religion and faith. i know how much it’s helped her and it must hurt to have her own flesh and blood deny what she holds so close to her heart.

    four years isn’t too bad, tracy. give them more time. with a heart as big as yours seemingly is, they’ll eventually at least see the good that the churchn your faith has worked through you, even if they never truly come around.

    i think what stings a bit more is how most of the in-laws treat us. they’re lds, “pioneer stock” sorts, but the ones who are still active (no one has ever said anything negative about the church, some just like their booze!) think we’re too “by the book” and “goody-goody” because we do things like (gasp!) not dine out or see movies on sunday, do have fhe and say family prayer, and ask them to keep swear words to a minimum around the kids. we’ve never lived near them, so it’s not like we’ve shoved anything down their throats… just the short interactions via a phone call a month or a weekend visit aparently does them in. we expected more from that side of the family, especially in light of what we lost from my side, but i guess those weren’t fair expectations.

  42. That sounds like such a tough situation with your family; I respect you for handling it as well as it sounds like you do.

    particularly women’s issues, and at times, I feel the moaning and groaning is a little self-absorbed. Be so grateful for what you have! I want to cry out.

    I’m not quite sure how to respond to that. I have to admit that I don’t fully appreciate what it would be like to have sacrificed so much for the Church and then hear people tearing it down, as any mouse put it. So it’s doubtless good for me to hear that perspective, and to be more aware that that’s where some people are coming from.

    But while I don’t completely understand what it would be like to be in your shoes, I also struggle to convey what it’s like to not be able to say that everything in my life is better because of the Church–because while the Church at times has brought me hope and peace and meaning and other such positives, other aspects of it have also caused me a tremendous amount of pain. As RT said so well, it’s possible to be both grateful for the positives and deeply troubled by the negatives. In my own experience, in fact, it’s difficult to be authentically grateful if I don’t have room to honestly talk about the negative things, too.

  43. Lynette- RT and I have been conversing about this off the boards via e-mail. My apologies if my words were hurtful. I did not intend them so, but flippancy does not always translate well in a blog comment.

    Of course there are people who do not feel as I do, and they are very entitled to their opinions. When a post doesn’t resonate with me, I just move on to something else.

    One of the limitations of blogging is that so often we only skim the surface of our viewpoints- it would take more than a thesis to fully cover the spectrum of the Mormon experience. I was merely remarking on how, as a new member, I so often do not relate to those who feel otherwise.

  44. Maybe one of the top 10 things I’ve read on the Internet, ever — and I’ve been on since before it was called the “World Wide Web”.

    Thanks,

  45. Wow. Thanks….

  46. Tracy, I know what you mean about tone being difficult to convey in a medium such as this. And I certainly agree about the vast range of Mormon experience. Thanks for explaining a bit more where you’re coming from.

  47. Tracy,
    Thank you for sharing your beautiful testimony. I hope that the love you have for your family can eventually bring down some barriers and as time goes on your family will feel the peace and love and support that is there (although it may be buried right now).
    My family is awesome but there have been situations and feelings that have caused tension in the past (not centered around me though). As the years have gone by, we’ve come a long way.
    It sounds like you had a wonderful childhood, and people that wonderful don’t really change. They just aren’t perfect, and families can deal with that.

  48. Lunar Quaker says:

    Re: 23

    I don’t know if it’s all that normal, jimbob. But I do know that you typically only see this type of behavior in arch-conservative cultural context like the Mormon church, where belonging is everything. My own father has encouraged my siblings to distance themselves from me for my decision to abandon my belief in the church. When faithfulness to dogma trumps family relationships, there is something dreadfully wrong.

  49. I’m really sorry your family has responded like that, Tracy. If my kids decided to join a religion and follow God, I wouldn’t care what religion it was. No lie.

  50. First time posting for me–I lurk now and then, but this post hit very close to home. Please forgive the length of the post.

    I am also a convert, but unlike Tracy M., my childhood was far from idyllic. By 19, I had been been betrayed and abandoned by virtually everyone who was supposed to have cared for me as a child. I was teetering on the edge of alcoholism and despair.

    The church, in the form of two wonderful sister missionaries, saved me. The members and the principles I learned helped me turn my life around. I served a mission, married in the temple and now have a wonderful life and family.

    But about two years ago, I hit a spiritual slump. I decided to study the church and the gospel more intently, and specifically its history. You can guess where that led.

    To be brief, the unvarnished history of the church was devastating, because it felt like my new family had now betrayed me like my natural family had.

    When I joined the church, I laid everything–everything–on the altar. I confessed every sin demanded of me in the baptismal interview. It was an act of faith that approaches the miraculous. I was crushed to learn that the church did not hold itself to the same standard of honesty with me.

    Anyway, my point here is not to bash the church. I do not regret joining the church, and I am still active. Everything good in my life I owe to the church and its members. But the feelings of betrayal are raw and real, and I just can’t find it in me to believe.

    Help with this is hard to find. NOM, in the DAMU, was a godsend for a while, and those people are the only reason I found the balance to stay active. I am working through the hurt and anger, but where do I go from here? Is there a place for a loyal heretic in the church?

  51. Thomas Parkin says:

    George,

    The solace is in Jesus. You very likely not find your help in any person or group, in or out of the church. Make this the spiritual fight that it is. Feast on the word, and strive to draw near God. Do not concentrate on what seem to be sins of the church any more than you would concentrate on the sins of other people – the church is imperfect, just as you are imperfect. They are there, we know what some of them are, but our apprehension of them is neccesarily incomplete. When you laid everything on the altar, did you become perfect? Then why be betrayed when the imperfect church proved imperfect? Only God is perfect, and your covenant is with Him, not the church. Why do people expect that it is the church that will meet all their needs? It isn’t. The church, in and of itself – and I mean the culture and routines of the church, meet very few of my needs, emotional, social, intellectual, etc. It is God, mostly through the Holy Spirit, that meets our needs. And becasue of the Holy Spirit, the living water, literature, art, nature and, yup, my activity in the church, come to life for me. The church safeguards the ordinances that can point us to Christ – but like the proverbial horses, we can be lead to the water, we can be standing right there by it …

    When I left the church I often complained that I had been 100%, but that I hadn’t received the promised blessings. The tit for tat the sometimes seems to be glibly promised hadn’t materialized for me. My marriage became more difficult, not less. Etc. But, I now can be somehwat more honest and admit that first, I was not 100% and second, the promised blessings were recevied, but they were not the things I had expected. I expected some of the things you have – a happy marriage, etc. Instead, I received nasty disappointments that in the end brought me closer to the Lord. I wouldn’t trade this latter for the former – but lordy it was enough to put me spiritually under for a long time. My testimony eventually hung by the thread of the 121st Section – because of this section I loved Jospeh Smith, and I thought of it very often – and a talk Neal Maxwell gave several years ago on irony, I love Neal Maxwell for giving it, – jsut about everything else had come up for questioning.

    Events in the history of the church that seem to contradict the official story, or that seem to offend the moral sensibilities of the current moment, will usually be found to be something quite more benign, much less proufndly difficult, later on.

    Is there room for a loyal heretic? Indeed there is. I’m a loyal heretic from a long line of loyal heretics. From the church I have my little deviances – but from God I strive to have none. And as far as my ego connection with the idea of being a heretic, I’ve found I had to let that go. And as I’ve tried offering up my broken heart and contrite spirit as best I can, the Lord has responded and comforted and revealed many things to me. I don’t see any reason why He wouldn’t do that for anyone. Didn’t happen in a moment, but has happened over a relatively short period of time.

    Best to you, mah brutha.

    ~

  52. It strikes me as sad to think of your own family as a refining fire. The close knit family you describe of your youth is what many of us would like to have now. Yet, it seems, sometimes church comes ahead of family. I am not trying to be mean-spirited or anything, but it seems to me that family is more important than church. If I understand the direction of many of the general authorities’ talks lately, they seem to be encouraging us to place family first, above church programs. I think the Lord created church for the family, and not vice-versa. I imagine that, as a convert, you are still learning the nuances of mormonism (such as your recent post about Vodka drinking temple attenders) but I certainly hope that the church does not divide your family forever. After the beautiful depiction of your youth with orchards and nature as the backdrop, and aunt, uncles and grandparents close by, it would certainly be sad if those relationships were lost.

  53. Re 51–

    Thomas–I appreciate your response, and have found what you say to be very true, especially about Christ.

    Your confidence that there is a place for loyal heretics gives me hope. But mine are not “little deviances”, i.e., Coke or not; or tithing net or gross.

    I do not believe the Book of Mormon to be of ancient origin. I do not believe the First Vision was an actual event. I could go on, but you get the point.

    These are not mere doubts–I have studied and thought and prayed about these things seriously. Even so, I love the church and most of what it stands for. I believe this is where God wants me to be.

    Yet I can’t be fully “in” the church, because my beliefs preclude me from holding a temple recommend. I can’t, in good conscience, express many of my thoughts and beliefs in church meetings, because of how they might affect those around me–not least, my family.

    I guess what I’m looking for is not solace, but wisdom. How do you walk this road?

  54. #52- To clarify- I am not putting church above my family… I make every effort to be involved with my family- and I do not talk to them about the church, when I visit, I don’t go to church, I don’t expect them to bless the meals, nor do I pray anywhere but in private around them. I have never sent the missionaries to see them or in any way pushed my religious choice upon them.

    They have chosen to make my joining a church an issue. My mother was the one who said I could not be both Mormon and her daughter- out of the blue, I might add. Also, it likely would not have mattered what church I joined- they don’t approve of organized religion in any form, and subscribe to the “opiate of the masses” thoery.

    I am doing eveything in my power to show them my faith won’t interfear with out releationship, but I worry that the only thing that will make them beleive that is my giving up my faith entirely. That is something I cannot do- for anyone. Faith is private and personal- and no one else should have jurisdiction over another’s conscience.

  55. George- I too, had a crisis of faith when learning some of our, um, less forthcoming past. It was very difficult, and I feel your pain, and I am sorry.

    I really wish the church was more open about it’s past- it’s horrible to find out such unsavory things from other sources, and does feel like a kind of deception.

    My own solution is to just agree that the church is imperfect- Jesus Christ is the only perfection, and the work of this church and what it tries to stand for are very good things in my life. Hence, my testimony, as I wrote above, cannot be of so many of the things others testify. Maybe some day it will be, but for now, all I can say is: My life is better with the church, familial problems and all.

    Good luck, and hold onto the rocks- Christ and His forgivenss of our frailties.

  56. Thomas Parkin says:

    Hey George,

    I think that at certain points there is nothing tragically final with holding any particular heresy, espeically when they are held honestly. If you truly care that what you beleive is true, and are therefore amendable to altering your views, and so don’t have an identity invested in holding this or that view, I think everything will come out ok in the end. It seems to me that this must be true both for believing and not quite as beleiving peeps. Being able to say ‘I don’t know’, ‘I don’t understand’ – that’s the beginning of learning. There is nothing worse for learning than constantly making assertions of the infallibility of imperfectly understood ideas.

    I don’t know if I would ever say that I know the Book of Mormon is of ancient origin. I beleive it is, I think it probably is. It isn’t, I suppose, that important to me. I know that your milage may vary. I would, however, say that it is _true_. I would say that I know it is true: what it teaches about the spiritual conditions of individuals and societies. That, as they say, a man will get nearer to God by living it.., etc. As for the first vision – I can barely describe what happened to me last week, let alone 15 years ago, without realizing that I’m not telling exactly right, becuase I don’t recall what is exactly right, or with perfect accuracy – but, like one critic said about Isak Dinesen:
    she is never accurate but is in a grand manner sincere.’ In other wrods, the story is true even if the details are off. It bothers me not one iota if Joseph Smith, long after the fact, got specifics wrong. Nor does the fact that he rarely spoke openly of it till long after the fact say much – I keep virtually all me spiritual experiences to myself, do not assume that I’ve learned what i need to learn from them, etc; and the more profound the experience, the more likely that I won’t speak of it. And, so, while I’ve never seen the Father adn the Son, many of the other spiritual experiences Joseph describes in his life I have had, and not rarely – so that there is no reason for me to doubt his good faith – and that, for me, has come to be enough.

    As for wisdom – beats me. I’m absolutely positive that many active members are more or less in your shoes. Part of the reason I left the church, *part* (and I never really say this because I don’t think I’ll be believed), is that I knew that if I spoke my mind I’d do more harn than good – and I always speak my mind. I think the Lord wanted me out of the church, both for my sake and the church’s. I’m not saying that is right for you, especially as you have a family whose faith and love you value. In fact, I’m nearly positive it isn’t. Just because something is true, or you feel that it is true, doesn’t mean it needs to be said. I certainly don’t claim to know what is wise for you to do – but I would think that if you’re happy in the church, press on. Maybe you’ll find a good frined, or bishop, who can sympathize with your dilemna. (it’s been known to happen *wink*) What I do think with a lot of sureness is that if you keep your covenant – which is this – that you ‘always remember Him, and keep his commandments … that you will have His Spirit to be with you …’ and that things will work themselves out in the end.

    We don’t get or fail to get answers in one blinding (heh) flash. I’ve long thought that this is one of the weakest parts of our teaching: that people are to study and then pray, na dthen supposedly get everything they need to know in a single spritual experience, and take all thier views from that. I’ve heard some distancing in GC from this teaching – or more routine than teaching, really) Coming to Christ is a lifelong process, marked by doubts of all kinds, revelations of all kinds, first barely audible then later clear as a bell, doubting those revelations, failing to receive revelations just when you think you need it most only to much later be overwhelemed with information you couldn’t previously have processed – with many failures as well as some succeses.

    Go to the scriptures and try to confrom yourself to what you learn. Even if it seems out of step. (There is the room for heresy in good faith.) Light is added to light, here a little, there a little. You love your family very much. The Lord is going to reveal to you what best to do for them. Listen close. :) Love them more than you love yourself. You’re going to be ok. :)

    ~

  57. Just know that this cuts both ways. I attend the church primarily because if I left much of my family would react negatively. They would stop short of disowning me, but they would gossip, assume that I left due to some sin, harass me, feel bad that I found something else, etc.

    It is human nature to believe that you are right. This goes for mormons and non-mormons alike.

    I would not assume that your family loves you any less – they probably are truely concerned about you and your family. Just as mormon families struggle with their apostate relatives

  58. I have read all your posts and researched the beliefs of the LDS church. I guess I am one of the bad guys. My daughter is converting to the LDS church after being raised a Christian all her life.
    I am a little troubled that the scripture: Train your children up in the ways of the Lord, and when they are old they will not depart from it. Has not been mentioned at all..
    My daughter is going to convert and give up her family. She stated that the church is proud of her for doing this. I will win in the end because of the above mentioned verse in the Bible.
    My son is a Youth Pastor and I am a youth leader. With our prayers and the promise of the Bible she will see the light and return to her roots. It may take awhile, God’s timing, but it will happen. I can not believe you teach that this is appropriate behavior.. she is a disciple with her Christianity and we do not teach that it is a good thing to leave your family for this. Yes, put God first and love him first. But where does it say to give up your family and lie.
    She has lied to all of us about her conversion.. do you also teach that this is appropriate behavior? I have researched your beliefs and it is stated you do believe in the Ten Commandments…
    She will come back!

  59. Donna,
    Not only do we believe in the Ten Commandments, but we use that particular scripture quite a bit. We also use the King James version of the bible along with the Book of Mormon.

    I am sorry your heart is so sore by the choices your daughter is making. I am very sorry you feel so saddened. I don’t understand the lies- being honest in all our doings is a tennet of our faith, and I cannot speak for your daughter.

    We beleive in Jesus Crist as the savior of the world, and the Savior of each and every soul on it… so perhaps your daughter isn’t straying so far from her roots as you seem to feel. She isn’t leaving behind Christ by joining the LDS church.

    Regarding leaving ones family, well, I did not leave my family. My family could not accept a choice I had made. They put up the fences. I wish with all my heart that they could have continued to see me with the same loving eyes I always knew before becomming LDS. I continue to strive to find ways to be close to them, and I love them greatly.

    If I could give you any advice, it would be to continue to love your daughter and be open and welcomming to her, whatever her choices in life may be. As a convert, the hardest thing for ME is feeling like my family’s love is conditional- if I do what they want, they love me. If I choose differently, they reject me. That is more painful that I can say.

    You also may want to go to LDS.org, and read our Articles of Faith. It’s a list of the tennets of our beliefs, and may help you understand more. The first tenent is belief in the Lord Jesus Christ, in God the Father and in the Holy Ghost.

    My prayers will be with you and your family to find some peace and understanding. Thank you for your comment.

  60. I will always love her..
    I hate the sin not the sinner…
    Enough said…

  61. cj douglass says:

    she is a disciple with her Christianity and we do not teach that it is a good thing to leave your family for this. Yes, put God first and love him first. But where does it say to give up your family

    Matt. 10: 35, 37
    35 For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.
    • • •
    37 He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.

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