Welcome to My Continuing Online Journey!

Perhaps you've read my book by now, or maybe you've only heard of it and were curious about me, or maybe you're even just surfing the web and happened on one of my posts, but please take your time and wander around. I've got enough to say, I'll be posting for some years yet! Lots of resources, personal entries, and discussion to be had; please contribute (respectfully) to it without fear of being lambasted. (Read: all comments will be moderated for relevance and basic appropriateness.) Finally, if you are here because you have heard my story or one like it and are willing to lend your support to us indoctrinated folk entering the real world, Thank You. With love, Regina

Thursday, October 31, 2013

More from Mr. Birrell

Man, I love this guy. Yes, he'll wax a little philosophic (and a little poetic), but this spoke to my soul, and I wanted to share. Happy Halloween with something COMPLETELY unrelated! ;)

There is an evolution to pecking out of the egg and coming into the light. Imagine the effect on the chick of having something happen that it can hardly comprehend, as cracks in the shell become avenues for the first experience of new light to begin to impose itself upon the old darkness the chick never knew was darkness until experiencing more....it did not know what it did not know; how could it?

Then the pieces slowly fell away, and something strange--a new light--now blinded the chick, yet still it pecked until it could escape that which now is impossible to contain itself, and yet was also so indispensable to developing itself.

Why would the chick, then, curse the shell or shadow that may have held it captive, and necessarily so until that bright day when it was strong enough to escape the shell, dry in the sun, spread its wings, and in the new light consider itself and say.....so, this is me; this is who I am!

Be kind to the darkness then that was your embryonic phase to the person you are now, and would not give up being today; it's OK that we all cursed the darkness at times that held us in until we were ready, like that marvelous scene at the end of the movie--Gravity--to kick off the very suit that felt weightless and saved us in one moment of our lives, and became heavy and would have drown us in another.

In the moment of frustration, while holding her breath, Sandra Bullock's character surely cursed that heavy space suit under water that moments earlier had saved her life in space. And so it is with the journey of life, when one comes to know the earth for the first time...and old skins must be kicked off to survive the rapid change in the landscape of our lives.

And like her character uttered, as she grabbed a hand full of earth as if feeling it for the first time--as if feeling really, fully alive for the first time, the only sentiment left to say; a simple but says-it-all....thank you! I got through all that alive, somehow. All that came apart in my orbit and threatened me could not, in the end, destroy me.

I am OK. Maybe I am not sure where I am in the sometimes disoriented here or now of adjustment and change, but I am not alone! Neither am I unchanged. Neither would I go back into that space again---nor can I, given that the same shrapnel that brought me out remain in that orbit.

And all of this is reason for joy! And no one, no one....will ever understand the journey that got you there or out of there, or the courage it took you to survive that coming apart--borrowing again from the movie Gravity, and the falling to earth that freed you to be OK in a whole new way, landing in an unfamiliar place, and in tact as a much preferred you!

So you broke the Mormon gravity; get your legs under you now and walk with head high, heart full, for both the embryonic confinement of the Mormon experience, and for the personal confidence it took to break free of its gravitational pull....

There is no need to curse the old, any more than the chick needs to curse the shell or the darkness it knew in that place, or the astronaut the factors that forced an unexpected path change from orbiting earth to knowing earth in ways you could not have known, otherwise.

And yes, like in the movie, there are loses along the way, but even those were part of what got you to here when you needed them to be just who they were to keep you moving forward.

Even the darkest echoes from those still in the shell, and who have yet to know that light--let alone that they walk in darkness at noon day--deserve not our cursing, but rather call forth our deepest kindness for what they have yet to experience, until some strange force may begin to act on them--perhaps the shrapnel coming at them from things in their own lives coming apart (as in the movie, given that the actors did not create the problem in the script but were none the less affected by it), and they instinctively begin pecking.....

And cannot stop.....they just cannot stop.....(you know that feeling)...and the new light blinds them, and they initially curse those who brought them to the light (or the light to them)--like someone waking a sleeping man on a dark morning with a bright room light...

In that moment they may exclaim--turn off the light, you are blinding me.....

...from their anger, while covering their eyes, being more comfortable with the darkness they know as light....

...before one is ready to begin their awakening!

[Editorial note: If you've not seen Gravity yet...leave off RIGHT NOW and go see it!]

Where we threaten the Church is that our wisdom points to people in exile being OK in their humanity and divinity, rather than making all that conditioned upon allegiance to external authority and upon a God that is not as accessible as he is perceptual or theoretical in the faith narrative.

God is not a narrative; God is an inner experience that, if transposed to narrative, becomes lost in human limitations of thought and word....God is lost to a world that seeks to name God, rather than just experience it--the God, that is, that lives within, however you explain the God narrative to yourself.

I am always pleased when my friends who have journeyed beyond the walls of Mormonism discover that they are still OK, that there is meaningful life beyond the wall, and that they do not encounter an offended God who whips them with trials until they retreat again behind the wall for institutional forgiveness and personal refuge from his eternal rage.

After all, do not the Gods--as explained by their own inventions--invent humans to meet their needs to be eternally adored and absolutely obeyed?

How little humans change, only how they tell the stories and mythologies of their lives to themselves....of which their perceptual gods are a part....and, truly, a necessary and beneficial part, when well played....

The gods of men are so like that, because men are like that; the only god that can be known by any man is the god he is; thus, god is but a self-perception and projection, except to the one who is convinced of the thoughts of his own mind, and whose mind rules over him because he refuses to examine those thoughts, or empty himself of thoughts about God, so that a better God might meet him in an open inner landscape of possibility!

Man believes the god he has because he believes in the god he is. To the loving, god/reality is experienced and explained in loving ways; their imaginations of God have been captured by grace and love, and they speak of life and God in such adoring and supporting terms.

To the legalistic, god/reality is experienced and explained in those terms; assigned rituals, sacraments, ordinances, and obediences become evidences of God's love for us, and our devotion is reciprocated by attending to such things with something named perfection.

To the authoritarian, god/reality is absolute power; absolute love is surrendered to (and often confused with) absolute human authority; human authority is the institutional God, incarnate--whether by mine own voice or the voice of my servants, it is the same; and servants sitting in seats of power and judgment come to believe their own voice as the same; think church courts, and how these disciplinary courts are named "love" by those who conduct them.

From that power place of taking oneself so seriously/sincerely, men who lead from authority still practice the blood atonement in theory, when they encounter the wicked and wish for their punishment--be they of the wrong sexual orientation, religion, expression, or persuasion, or inclination.....there is always a way for the right(eous)to make the sinner wrong, and exile them when they fall short, as all sinners do!

Don't ask these types to love you unconditionally; they are too busy numbering the hairs that fall from your head, and finding some way to assess all that through some right(eous) precept within their hyper-vigilant minds, as god's self-appointed watchmen and defenders, and such....they are, as I have experienced, the least teachable, because they are too busy measuring where everyone else is (or isn't) right, based on the high standards they know; based on the high standard they think they are; based on their own unquestioned sense of rightness.

The only god we know, then, is the god we are.....if there be an ultimate and infinite presence called God, it would be incomprehensible to the human mind, and a terrible antagonist to the very human-will it created to become, as the Mormon scripture says, its very enemy (the natural man being an enemy to the very God who created that nature). God, I suppose, needed a lover and an enemy in us; how erratic and erotic is such a narrative of God!

And so it seems, as the saying goes, God created man in his image, and then man returned the favor!

Our natures, being God's named enemy, is a frightful construct; you have no power against the all powerful. Even worse, God created an invisible enemy who he cast below to torment us, in order to prove us....because he does not have all the facts.

He can only send the rats to the lab and see how they perform when faced with a human nature he both created and despises, and an enemy he apparently advises (think Job), and all within a saving plan that minimizes the god experience to such mantras as: pay, pray, and obey, rather than trust, love, and seek--as a means of individual expansion, rather than institutional domination. In short, the God experience can never be more than an evolving personal narrative. Some tell that narrative within the framework of a relationship with an institutional church it confuses as God, while others must tell that narrative from a greater distance. Either way, it's all narrative; it's all personal; it's all OK.

The wisdom of healing, and of giving other people permission to be OK being them from this place of exile, is that as they make the exodus, they need not look back and turn to salt. In other words, they need to stop looking at TBMs to make them OK, to give them permission to be OK being them as they exile.

As I stated in this post, there is no TBM who has any way to be OK with the exile of a loved one they had hoped and struggled to prepare for an eternal glory with. Stop asking TBMs to make it OK for you to be you in exile. You ask too much of their mindsets, and you ask for what simply cannot be--unless you are fortunate enough to be loved without conditions by the TBMs in your life--either way, then, you do not need permission to be OK being you in exile from TBMs, for either you already have that permission because they are TBMs who actually can love radically, or you won't ever get it, because they have no way to love that big--because their god and salvation are just too limited.

It is more important to you, now and always, that you love you that BIG. That is your job. That is your job alone, to make certain you are well-loved within. Please know that your journey is not about gaining approval from others, but knowing in ways other cannot access, the greater wisdom that whispers outside the temple walls as well as within, that it is still well with my soul....

No one, no one has your inner spiritual GPS system, because they are not called--if you will--to walk your perfect path in life! They can only project their own "true" onto your path and search.

Oh what we can teach our TBMs if we can be the love to them we so often desire--and even demand--from them. Stop asking people to love you for who you are now; you don't have that right to demand that they love you at all, let alone love you any certain way. Love is always a gift.

So just presence to them a God, spirit, grace, love, whatever language you use, so profound that in time they willingly confront their limited ways of knowing and experiencing. They may have no way to comprehend how any of us could be OK outside the wall. They have no framework from this place of possibility and accessibility to the God we are and know now!

 Just a PS. I actually believe it is the emptying out of the theistic mind, or as faiths call it--to be as a child or the beginner's mind--that is the beginning of experiencing the "surprise" of God, or this idea of God as radical inner experience, not outer theological explanation.

From deep within metaphor, symbolism, and parable, we find within our perceptual language through which the notion of the Divine and Eternal speak to us.

It is like the beautiful symbolism and metaphor of Peter walking on the waves with Christ. Imagine what it took to let go, metaphorically speaking, and trust the inner faith necessary to walk on water, knowing full well the impossibility of such a thing.

Juxtapose that with the boat, in which his fellows both rode and trusted. Such different paths of faith, those are; religion is the boat, while something that allows us to walk on water is a different experience of the inner God that we are. And you cannot access the faith to walk on water if your faith is in boats!

Once accessed, once one realizes the faith to walk away from the boat, because they can, and because doing so brings them to the God of the impossible or the radical inner spiritual life, then what is to become of boat/religion? One becomes an (and in) exile, their relationship with the boat that brought them now forever changed....

The radical experience of God, cannot be known in the possible; it is the impossible God who comes to introduce those emptied out and ready to meet God on God's terms.

The rest are theists, awaiting their salvation on man's terms. They are the boat riders who trust in boats; the rest are water walkers who let go of boats and walk away....

And in the acts of climbing out and letting go, water walkers must unavoidably become boat rockers!

 My imperfections are part of the perfection all things are; I am perfectly experiencing the illusion of imperfection--and it is only an illusion; things are as they are--that is reality. To argue against reality is always a painful experience.

Reality, then, is but imperfection in perfect order of perfection. It is what it is; without judging an experience or thing, it becomes, therefore, nothing to judge or be bothered by, or in other words, nothing--nothingness....and nothingness is perfection in fullness! Nothingness is openness.

Nothingness as openness creates space for gratefulness....or the joy of living without all the illusions or stories that run like TV reruns over and over in our minds, until we see that, they, too, are nothing....

Sonia, what is spirituality, then, if not another name for reality?

What if you looked at the notion of experiencing spirituality as a way of thinking about reality, including, therefore, any notion of what we might experience (and name) as God?

What if God is merely a name given to describe the indescribable, or an attempt by finite human minds to grapple with the idea that something has to be larger than itself? Otherwise, it might have to confess itself as God; and in the very act of determining there must be something larger than itself, it is being that larger-than-self God. God cannot, therefore, be known apart from the mind and body. We are the God we know; the rest is imagination, and that, too is of the mind. There is not reality outside our minds; there is no God outside our thoughts of God. God, then, is also nothingness, and from that place of nothingness comes possibility; God, then, is nothing and everything!

What if God means something beyond the evolving historical arguments of theists, originally formed from once indescribable inner experiences (Saul becoming Paul after unexpectedly experiencing Jesus on the road to Damascus), now distilled into empty (of transforming power) theologies by rote theologians--stuck in the arrogance (and identity) of certainty, whose theologies over time should empty mature believers out of belief--as these theological propositions/dogmas collapse in on themselves, as all dogmas eventually do (how many Mormon doctrines have changed over time that were God's only and unchanging truth at the time they were defined as such--blood atonement, Blacks and priesthood, polygamy etc.).

What a gift eventual doubt and (hopefully) inevitable unbelief become, then, if they empty us out of the human forms of explaining God. The emptying is only opening us wide to the gentle and transformational, mystical and magical forms of experiencing God--radical and unimaginable experiences we are now open to, and which captivate us and steal away our breath, while filling us with endless wonder in terms that cannot be explained, only experienced.

I experienced this today while sitting at Starbucks. I was caught up in the magic of escaping my mind and just being with the most eclectic group of people who all came in together. One sat with me and shared who they were: a support group for recovering addicts. With no mind to judge them, but just an openness to experience them, I sat captivated by their diversity, astonishing diversity that screamed unbelievable beauty to me.

My God, they were so beautiful. I nearly cried, as I looked at these people in their different forms and faces, genders and graciousness. I was overcome by the splendid energy, different personalities, and beautiful ways in which each one was perfect at being just what they are--themselves!

That was a holy moment for me, because I recognized myself in all of them; I was in oneness with the entire scene--and that oneness....became wholeness....which was experienced as holiness....

It was God I was experiencing, or the perfection of all that was happening around me (God being all things in oneness), as I just observed from that inner still and gentle place of love and joy, and it consumed me with gratitude, as I spoke my encouragement and praise for all that these people had experienced and overcome in their tribe of support.

I may have surrendered my former religious mindsets, but I never sacrificed my spiritual sensitivities or deep desires.....oh no, they burn even hotter in me now for others....for closeness...for oneness....with all that is.....

And so it is, we need tribes of support. Religion provides that in many ways; exile too often isolates us from one another--so I am glad the exiles gather here. For even the Zebra are wise enough to graze in tribal patterns that make it impossible for the lion to distinguish one from another. And when the bush fire rages they ban together and run into the fire, together.

Yes, some are scarred, but all survive, because they run through the fire--as one, not away from it; they gather and not scatter when the fire rages. So it is in life; the fire that devoured our past faith was necessary for us to experience the new undergrowth; new wine cannot be poured into old bottles. So I say to exiles, come...graze with me....come...run with me....come....know the me you are! Come, dance with my soul....

Such is the spiritual community of oneness, and it has nothing to do with theism, but pragmatism--and instinct.

What if nature is our true scripture, our true order of knowing and teaching? What if man posits his theories, but nature teaches us how to be. If we could empty out of explanations, oh what we would be open to experience....

And that to me explains reality; and from that place, reality is a spiritual experience! And that definition works to keep me out of pain and into joy. Why leave Mormonism from pain, and then stay in that pain? Heal, fellow exiles....

A life once defined by Mormonism is still defined that way, when our minds cannot escape our war with it....no matter how long we have been apart from it!

And that disrupted mind, too--as I see it--is also in the service of the spirituality of reality! For in time the troubled thinker will see that it is the story they have told themselves about Mormonism they are fighting, not Mormonism. Mormonism is just what it is. Either it works for you or it doesn't; either you'll stay or you'll go, or some variation of both.

Either (or any) way Mormonism, too, is nothing when no longer judged! Then gratitude can replace the suffering....and life can move beyond that former school to new possibilities and introduce us to new teachers! What is more spiritual than that reality?

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Bishop ***Trigger Warning***

Read this post yesterday, but it has stayed with me. No, this is not the norm, of course, but there is a now-ex'd bishop in our stake that is currently in jail for molesting a few of the young women in his ward, and I think this needs to be addressed openly and regularly until the church adopts additional fail-safes.

There are LOTS of things that need to be addressed openly and regularly, of course, but the psychological damage caused by men like these - and like a member of OUR ward who was JUST arrested for molesting his granddaughter - is absolutely chief on my list.

Please note the trigger warning above. For those of you who have experienced anything like this in any way, you may not wish to read about this woman's experience. For those who haven't, I sincerely feel it's important to understand what can and does happen in private interviews.

Best, 'Gina

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Monday, October 28, 2013

Courtesy of James R. Birrell

While checking in with a few former-member groups on FB, I came across this exquisitely-written assessment of the predicament faced by apostates as they continue to interact with those with whom they once shared a religious belief. Thank you, Mr. James Birrell, for giving me permission to re-post your eloquently-worded thoughts. Without further ado...Mr. Birrell.
"An Iranian student of mine, here at UVU, has been spending time with me sharing about his culture, faith, country, and perceptions of America--which right now is Utah County. He wore a beautiful necklace symbolizing his Zoroastrian faith: the Faravahar. It's beautiful, and I asked if I might have one to wear--if wearing it would not disrespect his faith tradition.

He brought me one last Friday and shared some of the meanings. He said, if you wear this, Iranians and others from the Middle East may come up to you and begin talking with you, because it will change how they see you. I put the necklace on and wore it out of the building. I passed three Middle Eastern men as I did, which is not unusual. What was unusual was that, for the first time in my three years here at UVU, one of them looked at the necklace and said, "hello."

I thought how wearing the Faravahar made me visible to some people, because the symbolism has status; thus, those who wear the symbol are now accorded status. They are no longer invisible. For ten seconds, as I passed that man, I was no longer invisible. For ten seconds I was "real" and "visible" in the perceptual world of a man who otherwise had no reason to see me or accord me status.

Mormonism does not escape that reality. Like any other group, there are symbols we give status to, including membership, level of activity, temple recommend holder, calling, gender, political affiliation, point-of-view, dress, etc. I think more often than not, what we are engaging within the church experience are those symbols: we see each other positionally as Bishop, President, home teacher, etc. We may come to know someone more personally, or visibly, than their place in the order, or how they contribute, hold power, or support us and our families. We may be moved by their knowledge of scripture, frequent testimonies, style of dress, figure or hair, etc. We may even become friends.

We see our perception of them, and according to what symbols we hold as valuable, we give value to them as an expression and affirmation of those symbols. I might give status to the Stake President, for instance, that I don't give to the Ward Librarian. I live in Utah and, while visiting Podunk, Iowa, I see garment lines through a shirt and think, "He is one of us," and accord him status.

We make people who wear the symbols of our faith, i.e., of our sense of what is true, and who is true, right and righteous, and who God surely approves of--because they are like us, etc., one of us, a part of us, real, visible, and approachable.

Without those symbols people are just one of seven billion faces in the sea of humanity that passes us as or almost as invisible, unless someone is attractive, or for some reason, engages us for a moment or lifetime. We size them up, symbolically. We assign status, accordingly.

And for Mormons, what do you do with a so-called apostate? A "doubter" can have status. An inactive member can have status. There is no status for one who intentionally walks away, after having once been enlightened--as the holy Mormon writings say. There is no status, or way to give status from that place that gives status in the first place--belief, acceptance, certainty.

So, those who leave the faith trouble those who stay, because they do not know how to make them visible--that would mean returning them to status somehow; how can the believer do that? Too often when the formerly visible becomes painfully invisible, that which was once so visible becomes inaccessible--and for some even, so lamentable or deplorable, and so painful, that they cannot even be lovable to formerly visible, now exiled one. The once visible becomes--as it were--invisible, as if they were dead, and from that place you can experience all sorts of hurtful actions from those who once held you as equal, and who now have no way to see you at all, except as wrong, lost, destroying our family, captured by the enemy, or worse.

And the truth is, they never really saw you when you were active--save in so far as you met their need to fit and affirm their symbolic sense of reality--you were the righteous priesthood holder, or dutiful wife; you played a role--you were that role! The life of the "exile" is to be invisible to those believers who have no symbolic place to love "all" as the self, as required by their faith. The only currency between people who require status from one another to be OK seems to be pain....and that part can be so hard to make invisible to believers or exiles. The former faith has no status; thus neither does the continued believer. Apostasy has no status; thus, neither does the self-exiled.

From that place, there is only pain! Until there is another way to experience life between the still faithful and once former believer! And that way for you is.........."

My reply, by the way, was quite short:
I experience life as stardust, by the way. If I, you, and all the TBMs we know are truly the Cosmos Made Conscious, (thank you, Brian Cox!) we are all products of our genetics/upbringing/race/nationality/religion/influences/experiences, and though I may not relate to any of those particulars, they make up a person who is who and what I'd have been had I been born to/lived with all those particulars. They are a reflection of me - the cosmos made conscious, little bits of stardust - that differs insofar as their collective existence, but are a complete record of who I could've been. How can I not love that, if and when I'm willing (and disciplined) enough to look beyond myself?

I'd love to hear YOUR thoughts! Comment away, people! :)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Doubt Your Doubts, Not Your Faith

Conference is now officially the worst time of the year for me...and it comes twice. (Thanks for that, Mormons.) I received not one but SIX emails from LDS friends who wanted to let me know they thought of me when they heard Uchtdorf's talk about doubting one's doubts, rather than doubting one's faith.

I've been stewing for two days.

Then today I read this post over at The Church of the Fridge entitled "I Doubt It." It made my day. Perhaps it'll make yours, too.


Thursday, October 3, 2013

Education: The Only Acceptable Debt

Sitting on the porch with my dear husband chatting about his recent increase in income, a light bulb went on in my brain.

You see, my husband graduated from "The Lord's University" (BYU-Provo) with a prestigious degree that landed him an awesome job literally 11 months before he graduated. His income potential with that degree, because of what it is, is quite literally limitless. And that degree has worked in our favor in spades.

I'd say we're "blessed," but according to members, we'd only be being "blessed" if we were active, righteous, tithe-paying Mormons. Instead, we're apparently being cursed by Satan with money that leads us away from wanting to pay tithing...that, or tried by God with an income that will test us to see whether or not we apply it to a righteous purpose. You know, like a $4bil mall in Salt Lake.

Anyway, my husband just got a raise, and it was a good one, and though we are frugal people, it's nice to know that (for the time being!) we don't have a ton to worry about in the family financial department, and I can continue to stay home with our kids and run a household. AWESOME.

Back to the point, we're sitting on the porch talking about his raise when he notes that now we have exactly one debt: a mortgage. We used his bonus last year to pay off all remaining student debt in the Samuelson household, and without car payments, and by carrying zero-balances on our credit cards, we are (excluding a reasonable mortgage) debt-free. He then noted that the church preaches there are only two acceptable kinds of debts: a reasonable mortgage, and education. Whatever we think or feel about the church, that was sound financial advice, and we're glad to have been raised to follow it.

That said, it dawned on us about the same time WHY the church believes education to be the only acceptable form of debt...and the reasons are threefold:

  1. The church wants educated members so they can point to their membership as among the most educated of any church around...thereby implying that the church really is God's church.
  2. The church wants people to pursue a "righteous" education, meaning that BYU will grow and make money, harking back to the image of the church, of course, but also ensuring that they have control over the type of uber-conservative religious education their students receive.
  3. Educated people command infinitely larger salaries than the uneducated, which means educated adult members will contribute larger tithing sums.
Those educated adult members won't JUST contribute larger tithing sums, though; they'll also contribute larger fast and other offerings, be able to be hit up for money for temples, missionaries in need (read: salespeople), scouting, what-have-you. They'll contribute to BYU as alumni, and they'll also contribute to the Perpetual Education Fund...which will, in turn, help provide an education for less-fortunate third world members.

And what happens with those third world members? They'll be educated, rising above their communities and making more money (from which to tithe) and opening businesses (to employ community members they can proselytize) and become respected "wealthy" community leaders who credit their success, income, and esteem solely to the LDS church...another proselytizing strategy.

Have you ever been to Disneyland? Being from Southern California, I have...too many times to count. Disneyland now has a very large parking structure...the largest in the world at the time it was built. It...is...amazing. It is daily filled to capacity with precision, the parking attendants moving cones, directing traffic, and smoothly, ever-so-smoothly, leading cars into perfectly aligned diagonal spaces with perfect timing and perfect smiles.

The LDS church is a Disneyland parking garage. It has been redesigned "in these latter days" with absolute Disney precision. And what is Disneyland's ultimate goal? The give your family a perfect day at the Happiest Place on Earth? NO! If that were the case, the lines for rides wouldn't be 4 hours long, the ticket prices would be cut in half, the park would be limited to half it's current "capacity", and a host of other things would make it an easy, peaceful, fun, inexpensive day. The ultimate goal of the Disney Corporation, lest we deceive ourselves, is to MAKE MONEY.

Such is the case with the LDS Corporation. Sure, go into debt for education. (You'll have to pay it back, not us.) In fact, get in debt up to your eyeballs for education, because while you're paying back half a million dollars in loans for dental school, you'll also be making $100,000 every year (to start) and forking over $10k in tithing...which tithing might cover a small portion of the cost of the City Creek Mall's electric bill this month, or might help persuade a minority female to take a position at BYU to bolster the university's professorial diversity, or may even pay for some fabric to make more garments that we'll sell right back to you at $6 per article, like the Company Store of a coal mine a hundred years ago.

Of COURSE education is an "acceptable" debt to the Brethren. It inflates their yearly tax-free income.

And that's when the light bulb over my head exploded, and I was blinded by the flash of anger it emitted, and I vowed that my children's children would never even hear the letters "B", "Y", and "U" strung together in that order.

I'll pay for Harvard, thanks.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

My Husband's Journey

My husband has struggled watching me, and then struggled beside me, and though I cannot pretend to know all the thoughts in his head and heart, I read another man's exit story today, and could not shake the feeling that it might've been my husband who'd written it. Like yesterday's letter to potential female missionaries, I absolutely had to share it, for more reasons than I care to explain. So again, without further ado, I give you "The Collapse of My Shelf."

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A Letter to Female Missionaries from a Lady RM

I know of a woman named Lori Crandall from an ex-LDS group on facebook who happens to be a smart, gifted, straightforward soul. She recently posted a letter to female missionaries who are about to leave on their missions, and it was so awesome, I HAD to ask her for permission to re-post it. It simply must be shared. (For more about/from Lori, please visit her website here.)

Without further ado, then, I give you Lori's letter to pavement-pounding Sisters. Enjoy. I did.

A word of advice to all new female missionaries preparing to enter the MTC.

As you are just heading out on your mission, I entered the MTC almost the same day back in 1990. I'm now about to turn 44.

I don't think it is possible to understand how Patriarchy hurts women until you actually enter the mission field and you see how the church is run and you see just how little power you really have. You work and work and then have to turn your investigators over to a boy 3 years younger than you to baptize and your investigator is looking at you like you are a weak, weak woman who can't literally work for god on her own. Wait, you'll see.

Then, you'll go to numerous zone meetings where the boys will get up and preside and lead and you will sit quietly with your companion and say nothing.

You will work at least 80 hours a week and still jump when the DL calls and wants you teach one of their female investigators even though you are exhausted, your laundry needs done, you've eaten nothing but pasta all week,...you'll go...because the boys come first and you have to be "selfless". And, when your companion or yourself becomes suicidal because of the lack of any control you have over your life out there...you'll be blamed, not the church, not the program, not the regime.

So, here's my advice and I hope you can here me. Remember this...you are doing all of this for FREE. Either you, or your friends and family are paying for you to be a saleswoman for the Corporation of the President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. For the next 18 months, you will attempt to convert people who will pay 10% to the church for a lifetime. You are literally filling the back accounts of the church, while yours is emptying. And when you come back, there is nothing for you. No tuition assistance, no lump sum payment...nothing. But the church could have already made thousands because of your work and hard hard labor.

So, I will tell you what I wish someone would have told me. When you are tired. Don't go out.

When you are sick, go to a doctor, listen to her/him and go back to your flat and don't go out.

If you are mentally exhausted. Stop working and go see the sights and forget the work for the day and just focus on you and re energizing your batteries.

If you are in a flat that is too cold or too hot, or that has mold, or rats, or any infestations...DEMAND to move, immediately. DO NOT JEOPARDIZE your health for this mission.

Remember, if you spent this time in the military, you'd be making serious money, and they would house and feed you well. A mission is opposite, you are being drained and you will feel that in just a few days when your parents drive away and are thinking all is well. It won't be and only you will know that as it's you out there,...not them. Also, if the moment comes where you don't want to be there anymore. If you have given all you can and your soul is on the verge of breaking...don't worry about family, friends or expectations...get home, save yourself and do what you want where you want and pursue your dreams.

Remember, this is voluntary and you are losing money.

I'll tell you the truth, when I got out there...after 2 months I was done. That is a LONG time to give your days and nights for free to any organization. 18 months is extortion...but you'll find that out yourself. Most people stay out because they are afraid of their parents. I was.

Also, when you come home. Move away from your family. Spend time with YOU. Get your own routine back. Do what you love. If you want to be a plumber, go learn to be a plumber. You want to be a cowboy, an electrician...go do that.

If you want to be a parent, don't even think about it until your late 20's. Get your education, get your career stable, get your own place and get some money in the bank and you guard that with your life.

A mission is hard, but coming home with nothing and starting a marriage with nothing and having babies with nothing is harder. Your mother made her choices and you have yours to make. Don't confuse the two.

I mean no disrespect to your mother, but I've been out there pounding the pavement in a foreign country. I know darn good and well what you are up against and no mother who has never experienced that has a right to expect her daughter not to be completely changed by that experience.

Use your instincts. Put yourself first, put your companion second and don't shun her if she just can't go out that day. Help her, comfort her and talk to her and don't guilt her. She's human like you and doing the best she can.

I won't say "good luck" as I know it takes a heck of a lot more than that to survive this.

If you get sick, get checked for worms and parasites. If someplace doesn't feel right...stay away. If you get a companion that you cannot get a long with no matter how hard you try. Refuse to work until you get reassigned. Do not suffer out there any more than you need to. Remember, at the end of this 18 months, you bank account is zero, but the bank account of the church could very well be in the thousands that you'll never see and never benefit from. Keep that in mind.

You are going to have to be strong. The MTC is not the real world. Be as ready as you can. And, if you get hurt and your parents don't want to hear it because of how it would "look", stop talking to them and find someone who will listen to you...it just might save your life.

On a personal note...I never married or had kids because I hated the gender roles in the church. When I came home from my mission my Bishop father forced me to go a singles ward to get married, he gave me no choice and that was it for me. I had just worked my butt of for nothing for the church and I was not going to come home as a 23 year old woman and be disrespected again. I left the church shortly after this. Why? How could true believing Mormon woman leave the church after a lifetime of living it? Because as a woman I was no longer willing to be subject to a man whe I had just worked as hard or harder than them for nothing...and they got the pleasure of baptizing the people I had worked so hard to convert. No, patriarchy and gender roles are not for me.

But...I would never have known that unless I had entered into the pressure cooker that is called a "mission".

Be smart, and save yourself.


Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Telling it Like it is

A friend shared this quote on facebook this morning, though without an attribution. It's too good and too spot-on to not share, so if anyone knows who said it or where it came from, please let me know! I did a search and couldn't figure out where it came from.

Enjoy! 'Gina

"One of the problems with Mormonism is that it doesn't just guide you through life. It wraps it's tentacles around your very definition of self. The church tells you how to live, who to be, where to donate your time and talents, it defines your morals for you, tells you what you want in a spouse, where you want to marry, what underwear to choose, how to live nearly every aspect of your life. Your ideal life is directed for you, instead of coming from someplace inside of you.

I read in a book recently, a letter from a woman to her boyfriend, apologizing for her obsessive, manipulative behavior saying "I was taught growing up that I was nothing without a man - without a husband and children. The man I married would define my life." She went on to break up with her boyfriend, saying she wouldn't be good with him til she found out who she was. How true was this for so many who pass through Mormonism? You are defined by who you marry, especially if you are a woman. Your choices and accomplishments are applauded if they are for the glory of Mormonism but dismissed or derided if they are not - no matter how much those decisions reflect the real you. I "belong" to the church of Jesus Christ ... It becomes your identity. They OWN you.

When that much of you is invested in any one thing, career, accomplishments, looks, religion, losing it shakes the very foundation of your soul. Who ARE you, if not LDS? What do YOU want? How do you know when you have never had to figure that out for yourself, except on the most shallow level? When there is no one to tell you how to be and who you are, how do you even begin to figure that out? To some extent, it's a relief. But it's also a very real loss. For Mormons to think we'd throw away so much of ourselves because we are offended is outrageous. It's a huge sacrifice we go through because our honor and integrity mean more to us than anything.

That loss of identity is also why Mormons find us so threatening. Our disbelief strikes at the very core of who they are and how they define themselves. Some people aren't ready to face the fact - not that the church isn't true but that they themselves aren't true. Devastating as it's been in many aspects, I'd rather face a complete rebuild than live a lie. But that's just me. Other people can't bear the thought.

It's ironic one of Mormons favorite Primary songs is "The wise man built his house upon a rock - the foolish man built his house upon the sand." Instead of knocking down their house and rebuilding on a rock, they shore up their shifting sands beach home, endlessly, with whatever junk they find."

Monday, August 26, 2013

New Week, New Reviews...and a Troll.

Good morning...and thanks! The reviews on amazon for I'm (No Longer) a Mormon are rolling in; 27 all told now! Believe it or not, 23 are five star, so to those who have reviewed the book and been so kind, a big heartfelt THANK YOU is coming your way! There's one in particular I'd like to draw your attention to, however...and it's the 2-star review.

I confess myself delighted to have picked up a troll (who, by the way, apparently did not buy the book). Check it out:

2 out of 5 stars "It would be smart for readers to get a balanced view - talk to others who've had positive experiences in the Mormon church." August 22, 2013
By Woodseal This review is from: I'm (No Longer) a Mormon: A Confessional (Paperback)
I have been a very happy member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (which means modern followers of Christ),(The Mormon Church) for 61 years. I am grateful for the strength it has given me to go through life with faith and happiness. I feel very close to God,and love Him and His Son, Jesus Christ.

I have never been abused or demeaned as a woman. On the contrary, I have found that women in the Church have a chance to become the very best leaders and contributors to their communities and the world around them, that they can possibly be. Opportunities to help others within the church and community give us many chances to learn and grow, and post-high school education is highly encouraged.

I have never felt limited in any way. The commandments of God rather keep me from problems I would have caused myself and others if I had ignored those commandments. They free me to make the choices I want to make, without addictions or baggage.

The Church is the same throughout the world, but groups of people can have very different attitudes and dynamics. I fear that is what may have affected the author of this book. She may have been living within a ward or area where the people did not understand and try to fully live the gospel and values taught by Jesus Christ. I have lived and regularly attended church in Wales, England, Minnesota, Utah, and Hawaii, and many places in Maine. I have found joyful, happy, growing individuals and families everywhere I've been. No group of human beings can be perfect. No Mormon is perfect. No matter where you go or what religion, or social group, or even company or neighborhood you may be part of, there will be individuals who wrong others intentionally or unintentionally. But as a way of life, a faith, the "Mormon church" is full of hope, peace, security, comfort, growth and joy. I am very grateful for the blessing of being a "Mormon." (Mormon was a prophet of God many centuries ago on the Western Hemisphere, who prophesied of Christ, and preserved and abridged the record of his people, known now as the Book of Mormon. Mormons who are living their religion try their best to live by the teachings of Jesus Christ taught in the Holy Bible, and in the Book of Mormon, and respect all other people of any faith, agnostic, or atheist.)

..........................Is it just me, or did this lady not even read the book? And for that matter, is this a review, or a proselyting attempt? Either way, I'm thrilled. I've officially ticked off a member enough by writing a former-member confessional that she felt a need to "balance" my unread account with a missionary edict.

Now if only I could get the Strengthening the Membership Committee up in arms, I'd be set!

Have a wonderful week! I sure will! Much love, Regina

PS: If anyone would like to respond to Ms. Woodseal, I'm sure she'd be elated. (wink, wink)
PPS: If anyone would like to review the book on amazon - you know, anyone who has actually READ it - I'd be elated, no matter how you rate it!

Sunday, August 25, 2013

10 Reasons to Protect Your Children from Mormonism

A woman from our ward sent an email the other day "because she was concerned about my kids." She actually said, and I quote, "I hope you're still teaching them that the gospel is true, even though you may not believe it anymore." 

................. Well, of COURSE I am, lady! I mean, why would I teach them to think for themselves, to reason logically, and to test out the efficacy of Joseph/Brigham/Thomas's claims when I could just teach them to believe? I mean, I clearly don't believe it, but that doesn't make it untrue! 

So after noting the above on facebook, I then wrote the following: "Gee whiz. What the heck do you say to that?"

The replies were hysterical, mostly stating that I should've told her to kiss off, but one gent sent a fabulous link that I HAD to share. This is from the blog of one Chris Tolworthy, who himself notes at the top that most of his blog entries were back during his "angry" phase of disaffection, but it makes this particular entry no less awesome.

Check it out HERE, and for heaven's sake, protect your kids from Mormonism!!!

Monday, August 19, 2013

If You're a Reader and Not a Writer...

I have a friend over at New Order Mormon that happens to be a moderator named Dathon. He's a heckuva guy with a masters who may be one of the best-read people I know, particularly in the areas of the psychology of belief and human error.

When you've got a friend like that, you just HAVE to know what he's reading...so I asked for his short list.

Dathon's short list is most people's "covered 'til I'm dead" list...but it is so utterly, incredibly worthwhile, I absolutely had to share. If you need some good books about why you think the way you do, and how to handle the way you think...you're welcome. (But please give Dathon the credit.)

And so, without further ado...Dathon's short list.

Human Error, by James T. Reason Text on industrial accidents. Worth borrowing from a library.

Why We Make Mistakes: How We Look Without Seeing, Forget Things in Seconds, and Are All Pretty Sure We Are Way Above Average by Joseph Hallinan. A good introduction to error / decision making. A lay person's guide to why people are prone to doing dumb things.

Don't Believe Everything You Think: The 6 Basic Mistakes We Make in Thinking, by Thomas Kida. I heard the author interviews on the "Point of Inquiry" podcast during a difficult interval of my own faith crisis. The book is accessible and well written, imo.

How We Know What Isn't So: The Fallibility of Human Reason in Everyday Life by Thomas Gilovich. An excellent introduction to cognitive biases and other common pitfalls that short circuit critical thinking. This was one of the first books on the subject that I encountered, so it's one of my favorites.

How We Decide by Jonah Lehrer. A good introduction for those not familiar with decision making, biases and error. I particularly liked the chapter on the influence of emotion. This is not a strong or technical book and has some flaws.

Behind Human Error [Paperback] David D. Woods (Author), Sidney Dekker (Author), Richard Cook (Author), Leila Johannesen (Author), Nadine Sarter (Author) I haven't read this one yet. It's on my list. I'll probably get the kindle edition next month. This is likely way too technical for most readers.

Reason & Religious Belief: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Religion This textbook is in its 5th edition. I bought a 2nd edition at a used bookstore and found it helpful in re-framing how I think and feel about religion in general.

The 5 Elements of Effective Thinking by Edward B. Burger and Michael Starbird

The Logic of Failure: why things go wrong and what we can do to make them right. by Detrich Dorner

Inevitable Illusions: How Mistakes of Reason Rule Our Minds, by Massimo Piatelli-Palmarini (translated by the author & Keith Botsford)

The Seven Sins of Memory: How the Mind Forgets and Remembers by Daniel L. Schacter

The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies---How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce... by Michael Shermer

On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You're Not by Robert Burton

The Invisible Gorilla: How Our Intuitions Deceive Us by Christopher Chabris and Daniel Simons

Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson

Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time by Michael Shermer

Memory, Brain, and Belief (Mind/Brain/Behavior Initiative) by Daniel L. Schacter and Elaine Scarry

Being Wrong: Adventures in the Margin of Error by Kathryn Schulz Check out Kathryn Schulz's TED Talk on Being Wrong also.

Currently reading / listening to: You Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, and 46 Other Ways You're Deluding Yourself by David McRaney


Make no mistake, my amazon "Wish List" just exploded. (Probably better that I don't see Dathon's, however; he said it has a tendency to make people gasp.) All you readers, enjoy, and I look forward to sharing as I make my (slow) way through! THANKS AGAIN, DATHON!!!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Who Needs to Write?

I was directed to this UBER-FAB blog entry today, and I cannot possibly add anything more to it, so I leave it with you to follow the link and let your jaw hit the floor! Enjoy!

CLICK ME for the LDS Ruin of Civilization! (Seriously, great quotes!)

Another Terrifying Tale...and a Review!

I received a note from reader Chris today, who posted the following review on amazon and gave me permission to share it here on the blog. I always cringe at what the church's treatment of women does to the male psyche, and Chris's story illustrates it beautifully. .......... YIKES. So here we go!

"I purchased this book on Thursday afternoon and finished it Friday morning. It was like sitting down with a friend and hearing her story and being reminded about the Mormon faith at the same time. The author's insight and presentation of the doctrines and unspoken beliefs of Mormons are right on. I know that because I was a Mormon for 35 years, having done my time as a missionary, then marrying in the temple, teaching gospel doctrine classes, and performing priesthood ordinances. The book covers just about everything I can remember and would write if I had written one on this subject.

The author spends some time going over the sickness men perpetrate toward women in and out of the Mormon faith. I have a personal account to share, the most extreme one I have ever experienced, but not the only sick one.

I remember I was assigned as a home teacher to some young women when I attended a singles ward, a congregation made up entirely of 20 somethings looking for mates. My companion, since males were always paired with another male when assigned visiting duties, was a guy who liked to wear white shoes. To make a really long story short, he was apprehended the night before we were to visit our first assignment, a young blonde who lived with her parents... Apprehended, arrested, and convicted for being the notorious St. Peter Rapist. He received a life sentence for sodomizing his young female victims before he cut crosses in their backs and took their hair as an offering to Jesus.

I could go on for thousands of words about less drastic but still very sick, debilitating, immoral acts and deeds I saw in the 35 years as a Mormon. My wife could add thousands more. She spent 40 years as a member. We are together and happy, having both left the faith at the same time, well, she left a week before I did; and now are raising our two sons to be productive humans in a beautiful world.

The author (identity unknown) has done a fantastic job not only explaining the doctrines but showing how those doctrines and beliefs affect the way the average Mormon conducts himself/herself in the world. If you really want to get to know the Mormon people before you join their organization (if you are so inclined) then I'm (No Longer) A Mormon is a must read."

Thank you, Chris...not only for the positive review, but for being willing to share such a shocking, jaw-dropping experience...and your personal acknowledgment that I am nowhere close to the only one who has been exposed to the insanity of cult-style experiences. Glad you're free, sir. All my best.

And to the rest of you, all my best, as well. And happy weekend! 'Gina

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

The Egg, by Andy Weir

You may or may not have read or heard this, but I've been trying for MONTHS to figure out how to explain how I now view the god, existence, human life, the universe, and everything in it, and this sums it up beautifully. Thank you to my dear friend B for sending it. Much love, lady. 'Gina

You were on your way home when you died.

It was a car accident. Nothing particularly remarkable, but fatal nonetheless. You left behind a wife and two children. It was a painless death. The EMTs tried their best to save you, but to no avail. Your body was so utterly shattered you were better off, trust me.

And that’s when you met me.

“What… what happened?” You asked. “Where am I?”

“You died,” I said, matter-of-factly. No point in mincing words.

“There was a… a truck and it was skidding…”

“Yup,” I said.

“I… I died?”

“Yup. But don’t feel bad about it. Everyone dies,” I said.

You looked around. There was nothingness. Just you and me. “What is this place?” You asked. “Is this the afterlife?”

“More or less,” I said.

“Are you god?” You asked.

“Yup,” I replied. “I’m God.”

“My kids… my wife,” you said.

“What about them?”

“Will they be all right?”

“That’s what I like to see,” I said. “You just died and your main concern is for your family. That’s good stuff right there.”

You looked at me with fascination. To you, I didn’t look like God. I just looked like some man. Or possibly a woman. Some vague authority figure, maybe. More of a grammar school teacher than the almighty.

“Don’t worry,” I said. “They’ll be fine. Your kids will remember you as perfect in every way. They didn’t have time to grow contempt for you. Your wife will cry on the outside, but will be secretly relieved. To be fair, your marriage was falling apart. If it’s any consolation, she’ll feel very guilty for feeling relieved.”

“Oh,” you said. “So what happens now? Do I go to heaven or hell or something?”

“Neither,” I said. “You’ll be reincarnated.”

“Ah,” you said. “So the Hindus were right,”

“All religions are right in their own way,” I said. “Walk with me.”

You followed along as we strode through the void. “Where are we going?”

“Nowhere in particular,” I said. “It’s just nice to walk while we talk.”

“So what’s the point, then?” You asked. “When I get reborn, I’ll just be a blank slate, right? A baby. So all my experiences and everything I did in this life won’t matter.”

“Not so!” I said. “You have within you all the knowledge and experiences of all your past lives. You just don’t remember them right now.” I stopped walking and took you by the shoulders. “Your soul is more magnificent, beautiful, and gigantic than you can possibly imagine. A human mind can only contain a tiny fraction of what you are. It’s like sticking your finger in a glass of water to see if it’s hot or cold. You put a tiny part of yourself into the vessel, and when you bring it back out, you’ve gained all the experiences it had. You’ve been in a human for the last 48 years, so you haven’t stretched out yet and felt the rest of your immense consciousness. If we hung out here for long enough, you’d start remembering everything. But there’s no point to doing that between each life.”

“How many times have I been reincarnated, then?”

“Oh lots. Lots and lots. An in to lots of different lives.” I said. “This time around, you’ll be a Chinese peasant girl in 540 AD.”

“Wait, what?” You stammered. “You’re sending me back in time?”

“Well, I guess technically. Time, as you know it, only exists in your universe. Things are different where I come from.”

“Where you come from?” You said.

“Oh sure,” I explained “I come from somewhere. Somewhere else. And there are others like me. I know you’ll want to know what it’s like there, but honestly you wouldn’t understand.”

“Oh,” you said, a little let down. “But wait. If I get reincarnated to other places in time, I could have interacted with myself at some point.”

“Sure. Happens all the time. And with both lives only aware of their own lifespan you don’t even know it’s happening.”

“So what’s the point of it all?”

“Seriously?” I asked. “Seriously? You’re asking me for the meaning of life? Isn’t that a little stereotypical?”

“Well it’s a reasonable question,” you persisted.

I looked you in the eye. “The meaning of life, the reason I made this whole universe, is for you to mature.”

“You mean mankind? You want us to mature?”

“No, just you. I made this whole universe for you. With each new life you grow and mature and become a larger and greater intellect.”

“Just me? What about everyone else?”

“There is no one else,” I said. “In this universe, there’s just you and me.”

You stared blankly at me. “But all the people on earth…”

“All you. Different incarnations of you.”

“Wait. I’m everyone!?”

“Now you’re getting it,” I said, with a congratulatory slap on the back.

“I’m every human being who ever lived?”

“Or who will ever live, yes.”

“I’m Abraham Lincoln?”

“And you’re John Wilkes Booth, too,” I added.

“I’m Hitler?” You said, appalled.

“And you’re the millions he killed.”

“I’m Jesus?”

“And you’re everyone who followed him.”

You fell silent.

“Every time you victimized someone,” I said, “you were victimizing yourself. Every act of kindness you’ve done, you’ve done to yourself. Every happy and sad moment ever experienced by any human was, or will be, experienced by you.”

You thought for a long time. “Why?” You asked me. “Why do all this?”

“Because someday, you will become like me. Because that’s what you are. You’re one of my kind. You’re my child.”

“Whoa,” you said, incredulous. “You mean I’m a god?”

“No. Not yet. You’re a fetus. You’re still growing. Once you’ve lived every human life throughout all time, you will have grown enough to be born.”

“So the whole universe,” you said, “it’s just…”

“An egg.” I answered. “Now it’s time for you to move on to your next life.”

And I sent you on your way.


The only difference between this and what I'm coming to for myself is that perhaps I take it a step farther: We are not just god in embryo, we ARE god...as it were. God is a collection of experience, a database, if you will, of everything and everyone in the universe, of every experience, of every conceivable avenue of experience and every possible choice that could be made. All-encompassing, in other words, and able to retain each individual experience while allowing the identity born of that experience to also unite with the whole.

.................Or maybe I'm talking out my rear. That's a possibility, too. Either way...it's something to think about. :)