There I was sitting front row at my 6 a.m. Seminary class. This was a class that was held Monday through Friday every morning before school. Unlike many other students I was happy to be there that early. Not only was I there physically but mentally, emotionally and with my whole soul. I craved knowledge of this religion, but it wasn’t just a religion: it was my life, it was a way of being, it was the center of my world. Aside from Seminary classes held every morning before school I attended church on Sunday for three hours, Wednesday nights was held for the youth (a program called Young Women’s) I read the scriptures and prayed with my family morning and night and, again, by myself morning and night. Twice-a-year we would hear from the prophets of the church, of God, and there I was with a notepad and a pen I didn’t want to miss a thing. This person was in contact with God. Wouldn’t you take notes? I was baptized at 8, doing baptisms for the dead in the temple by 13, given my patriarchal blessing at 16 and preparing for an 18 month mission at 17. Around that age i naturally started to question. And from then on I was thrown into a whirlwind of confusion until recently I found some grounding. I’m not sure exactly what it is that I learned about the LDS Church and I don’t want to come off anti-religions i’m just telling my story.

In my youth I loved the Young Women’s program that was in my church and I dedicated myself to it. I wanted to be Christ-like, I wanted to help everyone and save them. I remember getting rewarded for doing Christ-like things like bringing others to the gospel, sharing the Book of Mormon, bearing my testimony and immersing myself in the word of God. But does anyone ever think of the pressure that puts on a 14 year old child, to be perfect, essentially like Christ? Maybe it was just me that took it to that extreme or maybe it’s embedded in the church’s teachings. After all the church is named Latter Day Saints. So I took that title seriously I was going to be perfect at being perfect, until I couldn’t.

Cult is a scary word but more importantly I don’t think it’s accurate. I mean, maybe it’s a really nice cult, i’m not sure. All I know is when I started to question the church it was unacceptable to my father and all of my family I knew at the time. And when I started to Branch off my father got angry with me. When I started you know, being human and having sex with my boyfriend at 17, my father called me a harlot. Not a hoe, not a slut, biblical terms here. He gave me an ultimatum, stop committing the sin next to murder our get out of his house because, “for him and his house he will serve the Lord”. So as soon as I turned 18 I moved in with my boyfriend. At the time I thought I had failed my father on Earth and my Father in heaven. I was shameful and a failure. I felt defeated, my life was just beginning but i felt that it was already over. That shame I felt was excruciating. You see shame is a self-conscious emotion and it’s different from guilt. I thought at the time that I felt guilt, but there’s a difference between guilt and shame. Guilt is a feeling about what you’ve said or done that violates your standards or principles, shame is a bad feeling that you have about yourself as a person. I couldn’t admit this to myself at the time but I didn’t want to be a part of any thing that played off of your emotions. I didn’t feel guilty, I did however feel like a murderer. What a thought for 17 year old to have and how awful for a young woman to feel those things. I mourn for her.

A few months after moving in with my boyfriend i got pregnant. So there I was a child raising a child. No one taught me about contraception or protection, not in the school system and certainly not at home. Abstenence was the only birth control i knew. So maybe I wasn’t a child but it was a very confusing time as it is for anyone at that age. I never felt that I could ask questions because I knew it was taboo so I dealt with it myself the best that I could as a kid transitioning to an adult. I couldn’t ask questions during that confusing time and any opposing views to the church remained unanswered, rejected or ignored. As a result I suppress a lot of feelings and thoughts and consequently became numb. And so co-dependency was born. I now know that this was a direct result of the rigidity of my childhood, my religion. Co-dependency is essentially a lost self. And that’s exactly what I was, lost, I had absolutely no identity. I buried myself in other people’s problems and my parents and faith, for whatever reason, felt it necessary to support that behavior.

I learned that the LDS Church hindered me which in turn made me who I am. I started dissecting this idea when I hit rock bottom recently in my life. And when i hit, it hurt, but i learned a valuable lesson that i couldn’t have learned any other way except through that painful experience. I had got myself into an abusive relationship and when i got out i was angry and i started blaming my parents and the church, I hated religion and I hated everyone. When I was at the bottom it was uncomfortably quiet and I realized that I wasn’t descending anymore. For a moment I saw myself, and then I came out of denial and started coming into awareness and reality. I found myself wanting to learn and understand like I did in my religion as a child. When I was out of my mind in shock my default setting that was programmed in me as a kid kicked in and I just started structuring anything that was out of order. My whole life had been controlled and structured by others. To find my own sense of control I adapted and did the same. Where would I be without that structure? I learned to be thankful for my rigid upbringing and the principles, for that strive for perfection, because it drove me to keep going. I still struggle with the hindrances of my childhood but i’m not angry anymore and I understand that my father was adapting. He was just surviving in his environment, living in the only way he knew and he will continue to do so, bringing others to Christ and Salvation and nothing will penetrate his belief. Surely it’s a loss for me, a loss of my father, but I’ve gained myself. There’s a scripture I learned a long time that goes like this: Will you use this as a stumbling stone or a building block? I choose building block.