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

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! :)


  1. I look back on the childhood and young adult relationships I had with my Mormon friends and siblings and it makes my immeasurably sad that they felt so deep at the time but in the end were the most shallow relationships of my life. There is more depth in relationships between some of my work colleagues than between me and my Mormon family and friends. I still remember the day I finally confessed my disbelief in Mormonism to one of my childhood friends, a young man with whom I'd virtually grown up in the meeting rooms and hallways of our local chapel. He cried and I cried. We held hands. We didn't say much. I suspect we were both crying over the same matter: our lost connection/tie/bond, which was so massive that there wasn't room for any other connective tissue. When that mass was lost, there was nothing left. Our friendship was dependent on Mormonism, much as we didn't want it to be. It just was. Still makes me sad to think about it.

    1. Tammy, I don't think there's a former member around who can't completely and utterly relate, and for that I'm sorry. Sometimes its hard to know whether to be thrilled or devastated with the truth. :( All my best, Regina <3

  2. it is very hard when something we thought was real turns out not to be - that may be the fundamental spiritual challenge that "many are called but few are chosen™:)" to experience! all i know is to go forward, go on, keep going. it truly does suck to have KNOWN something was true, then find out it's not! ...all i got is: keep going!

  3. Just wanted to add a suggested book to your list.
    George D. Smith "Nauvoo Polygamy - but we called it celestial marriage"

  4. As a member who recently had a brother pull his membership from the church, it was devistating. It's hard to understand because I do believe and know its true. Things have changed with him, not because he is treated differently by any of our family but he has pulled his family away. Where gatherings were light and fun now they are weighted and tense. I think some of the emotions mentioned above by Tammy are mutually felt on both sides. -Lucinda

    1. Lucinda,

      We hear you. In fact, most of us who have left have been EXACTLY where you are right now. My husband's brother was ex'd, and my sister left the church 2 months before I was married in the temple. I recall her announcement (via telephone): I sobbed uncontrollably for hours after speaking with her and finally fell asleep, I was so exhausted. At that point in my life I could NEVER EVER have imagined how or why my sister would do such a thing...and frankly, until I left the church myself, I still did not understand. You're right, those emotions are felt on both sides. While my husband's family doesn't treat us any differently to our faces, we know about the hushed, sad, pondering conversations that occur when we're not there. Perhaps your brother is experiencing the same thing? Also, once you've left, it's nearly impossible to be yourself with your LDS family, primarily because your LDS family generally thinks the "new you" has chosen not a DIFFERENT path, but the WRONG path, and how on earth could you ever feel comfortable having a glass of wine or saying a curse word or wearing a tank top in front of people who love you enough to be exquisitely and deeply injured when you do? They still believe it's EVIL, while you're entirely in a different place. Again, you're right: it's incredibly trying and painful to both parties.

      I apologize for questioning your beliefs, but you, too, argue "knowledge" of the truth of the gospel. (The quotes aren't meant to be offensive.) It's that knowledge that creates such deep rifts between family members, because the one who has left has discovered that knowledge isn't felt or discerned by the heart...it's discovered via scientific processes. I fear that, like me, you'd be surprised to discover the mountain of information your brother has undoubtedly happened upon that would offer you the same conviction that the church is NOT, in fact, "true"...but none of those feelings would be a burning of the bosom. More a sense of pain, loss, humiliation, and resentment...which, depending on your brother's journey, could be exactly where he is now, and therefore also impacting your relationship. I sincerely hope that he's able to find a place of peace, and also that you and your family are able to allow him to express his feelings, concerns, and discoveries without worrying that he's trying to de-convert you. Once you've left, you're stuck in a place where the people you love most don't want to hear a single word you have to say because they're afraid Satan will use you to turn their hearts away from the truth...even as you know that you've finally found truth. Not a fun place.

      All my best, and thank you for your input. Regina

  5. I just finished reading your book. I have so many shared experiences with you and I'm sure every other girl who grew up Mormon. I was floored when toward the end of the book you mentioned that you still attend meetings and that your husband still believes. This must be such a challenge! I quit going to church long before I found the book "Mormon Origins" and had my faith crunched. My husband and I live in a small town in Idaho thick with generations of Mormons that he is related to. My parents, his parents, cousins, brothers and sisters, all of whom attend their weekly meetings and "know the church is true." I agree totally that finding out it isn't, while certainly an earth shattering, gut wrenching trauma, is also the most wonderful joyous and liberating thing that has ever happened in my life. I never had the promised "burning of the bosom" I always felt I was doing something wrong. No matter how hard I prayed, repented, or served, there was always a guilty feeling that I haven't done enough.
    I truly thank you for your book. I am working my way through every book on the subject that I can find.
    I don't know how your brother feels on the subject, but as for me, I do not discuss my "De-conversion" with anyone unless they ask. It is not my job to tell my family, friends or loved ones that they are "wrong" if living in the church brings them peace and a sense of purpose then who am I to put them on a path they did not choose. I love my family! Mormons or not it does not matter to me! If they love me less or worse, pity me because I no longer am caught up in the web of lies, it is their choice. I would encourage anyone who thinks they "know" of the church's truth to read any book on the list below. Let the truth set you free!!


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