Growing up in Zion and Reflections Decades Later

Dear Eric,

I was not surprised to find your homepage or by it's growing popularity. Leaving Mormonism is an excruciating personal decision not unlike losing citizenship in the country of your intellectual and spiritual heritage.

I am an descendant of the followers of Brigham Young, my childhood was enriched with colorful spiritual stories of my Mormon pioneer heritage. My father was a bishop, stake councilman, community leader; my mother a primary, young women's and relief society president and community leader. I was sixth of seven children born under the covenant in a land where our religion was the reigning majority influence. I was taught that I was "better than the rest," "a superior being in the preexistence," "I would become a great goddess and populate universes." That was the exterior or my family.

The interior contained physical and mental abuse, a disconnected mother and an absent father. My sisters endured years of sexual abuse by our brother who is now a well-established Mormon intellect and leader. Non-member friends, non-Mormon literature , non-Mormon music other than classical was forbidden. Less than superior grades received mental and physical shame--it was a disgrace to our family. The family name was more important than substinence. There was plenty of money for building budgets, tithing, fast offerings, missions--my father was a valiant contributor. There was no money for clothing, shoes, nutritious food, club activities or college. In fact, today my siblings and I support our parents financially.

My siblings are all college graduates and have wonderful careers and are excellent parents and citizens. But, my parents feel they have failed because other than the brother mentioned above all their children have been excommunicated or asked to have their names removed from the records of the church and have moved as far from "Mormon Zion" as possible refusing to allow our children to attend any Mormon function.

For twenty years the siblings remained estranged. Then, somehow, all of us began to receive counseling and were brought together again emotionally and spiritually. My sisters talked about their abuse and the younger brothers and I began vacationing together. We tried to have a family reunion but my parents were distraught the entire time because we couldn't attend a temple session with them, so we now celebrate moments in life without our parents present.

The childhood abuse we endured is the primary cause of our dissent from Mormonism, but in order to heal spiritually we all had to investigate the church's veracity and determine if we had made the right choice. Most of the information about Mormonism is put out by Christian organizations which are fine--but they have a dogma of their own. To those who choose this option, I give my support but ask that you take ownership of the dogma you accept to replace the one you voided. Spirituality is a personal possession and to expect others to share the same beliefs is simply wrong.

My advice to those in a quandary over the veracity of the church or whether or not Mormonism is for them -does it make you happy? Do you feel spiritually free? Do you take ownership of your spirituality? If you answer yes to these questions then retain your Mormon faith, because to leave it is the most painful personal decision you will ever make. It's not about wanting to go to bars or having sex out of marriage: it's about saying good-bye to a rich heritage, a place of citizenship and stature. After my siblings and I began to intellectually perceive the philosophical deceptions of the teachings of the church, we realized we could never go back and it's taken us a long time to trust each other or anyone else again.

Eric, you may print this letter if you think it is helpful. I would proudly sign my name if I thought I could do so without causing pain. But, while my parents are alive, I choose to remain anonymous--

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