529: Marisa Pond Calderwood – From Hinckley Scholar, to Depressed Mormon Housewife, to Happiness as a Post-Mormon

10929066_10152995320738798_4050620571795994324_nMarisa Pond Calderwood was raised devoutly LDS in Bellevue, Washington.  She was deeply committed to the church as a teen, but she also excelled in school and dreamed of obtaining a Ph.D. in Genetics.  After receiving the prestigious Gordon B. Hinckley scholarship at BYU, she married Carson Calderwood after her freshman year.  Although she remained devoutly LDS for well over a decade, Marisa struggled with feeling like she lost herself and her dreams once she married Carson, especially after going through the LDS temple and receiving the impression that women were ”less than” men in the LDS church.  Over the next several years Marisa had four children with Carson, but she also began having chronic headaches, and sinking deeper and deeper into depression.

Finally, once Marisa began to allow herself to consider the possibility that the LDS church might not be true, she began feeling better about herself, her headaches subsided, and she and Carson found a happiness and an authenticity in their marriage that they never knew before.  Today Marisa and her husband Carson are being threatened with excommunication for speaking openly about their doubts and disbelief.  They expect to receive their summons to a disciplinary council within the coming week.

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85 comments for “529: Marisa Pond Calderwood – From Hinckley Scholar, to Depressed Mormon Housewife, to Happiness as a Post-Mormon

  1. Irina
    April 3, 2015 at 1:24 am

    Marisa, I would like to recommend a book to you, if you haven’t already read it. It’s “The Simeon Solution” by Anne Osborn Poelman—a strong, independent woman, if ever there was one.This book details her own spiritual journey, and I wish you the best as you navigate your own.

    • Tom
      April 3, 2015 at 12:19 pm

      Terrific interview. Thank you!

    • Marisa
      April 4, 2015 at 4:33 pm

      Thanks for the recommendation – I’m excited to read it! I always love an awesome book!

  2. Eve
    April 3, 2015 at 5:36 am

    This was a painful but enlightening interview to listen to. I relate to a lot of Marisa and Carson’s experiences. John, you did a great job prompting Marisa with questions and guiding the interview. (Honestly, until the end when you said, “I can’t wait to meet you,” I thought you two were in the same room.”

  3. Norm Castle
    April 3, 2015 at 6:32 am

    I most certainly can relate to the headaches, except in my cause the mormon church and their lies, are a pain in the a**

  4. Bonnie
    April 3, 2015 at 8:37 am

    Thank you for your contributions in bringing this issue to light: I used to be a depressed mormon woman too and I now understand why so many are depressed but believe they’re happy…so done with that cognitive dissonance now!
    http://archive.sltrib.com/printfriendly.php?id=8278238&itype=NGPSID

  5. darth_bill
    April 3, 2015 at 8:45 am

    I really want to read these blogs and other things mentioned, but I can’t find the links and the link in Carson’s podcast isn’t working. Any help?

  6. darth_bill
    April 3, 2015 at 8:48 am
    • Marisa
      April 4, 2015 at 4:36 pm

      Thanks for posting the link! I think our letter is getting a lot more reads now than it ever did when we originally posted it last September!

  7. Koa
    April 3, 2015 at 9:23 am

    Marisa is articulate and smart. However, and most importantly, she is incredibly genuine. My wife and I both burst out laughing when Marisa described the notion of her possibly being part of a little kid excommunication.

    In Carson’s interview, I commented about moving on, and friends that care what religion you are are not really friends. I can’t add those here because Marisa eloquently addressed both of these points.

    I also think John did a much better job with this interview than he did with Carson’s by not injecting his situation into the conversation.

    /We wish you guys lived in Cache Valley.

  8. Kristi
    April 3, 2015 at 10:24 am

    So right on the money….you have these dreams, but due to these “cultural” aspects the second you fall in love you perceive it as ” I guess I was wrong the entire time” I guess God wants me to sit in the house and have a thousand babies. I guess I was wrong having all of these big dreams and aspirations.
    So then you go with it..you conform, you believe and you see things as this is how God wants it. I myself started getting depressed, got to 90lbs..i was so damn confused! The conformity aspect truly causes physical ailments.
    In your interview you stated “it may sound dramatic” that we are our husbands “property” but girl..that is not dramatic, it is exactly how it is portrayed and explained. We are UNDER the husband. Sheez..I myself can so relate with you and I am glad that you gained your health back and you see life for YOU and you are thriving now versus barely surviving.

    • Marisa
      April 9, 2015 at 3:44 pm

      Sounds like you definitely understand! It’s a pretty nasty bait-and-switch that we play with our young women. I like how you said thriving instead of surviving, that’s how I feel now and it sounds like you do too! Best of luck to you moving forward!

  9. David Macfarlane
    April 3, 2015 at 10:30 am

    Smart, lovely, independent and courageous. You did well for yourself, Carson. These are exactly the kinds of women the church can’t afford to lose.

  10. Dory
    April 3, 2015 at 10:37 am

    I respect any/every decision about your membership status. This comment is coming from “feminist left field” so it is an offering of something to think about rather than my suggestion. I assume that a wife is allowed to attend the excommunication meeting. They bring the exact same issues for revoking the husbands membership as the issues the wife would experience in a bishops court. What would happen if the wife sat through the process and then at the end of the meeting announced to the group that she considered this her excommunication process as well. She is saving the church time because there would not be anything different revealed in the process and it would highlight the discrepancy in treatment. Just a thought. It’s great to feel free and alive!

    • Marisa
      April 9, 2015 at 3:49 pm

      I think that’s an interesting idea. I specifically asked my Stake President in an email if it would be possible to combine our disciplinary councils and he hasn’t answered yet but I assume it’s against church policy. I don’t necessarily want to save the church time because I want them to see fully what they are choosing to do to each of us, but since my husband and I feel the same, it would be nice for us to get both over at the same time. After thinking it over, the idea that stands out the most to me is what John said about making the church accountable, so I am choosing not to resign. And it definitely IS great to feel free and alive!!

      • Cherryred
        April 14, 2015 at 4:25 pm

        Just listened to this podcast. I almost stared crying. I am in the middle of going through all of this. I don’t believe the church is true anymore. I was dedicated my entire life like you and thought there was somthing wrong with me. I have fought depression my whole life but I have 5 young children (oldest about to be a young woman) and don’t know how to deal with that. They have such strong testimonies of the gospel….long story…. But I envy you! I am a women in my early 30’s and I just want to be free and alive too!

  11. Fun
    April 3, 2015 at 10:51 am

    I think this interview damages the church more than any interview I have heard so far.

    • Marisa
      April 4, 2015 at 4:41 pm

      I’m super curious why you said that! Please elaborate 🙂

      • Fun
        April 8, 2015 at 5:49 am

        I think many people can identify with your story.
        It does not seem like you are opposing the church. It does not sound like you are trying to get people to have your same thoughts and feelings. I don’t think you are trying to get people to do what you are doing. You are just telling your own individual story.
        It does not seem like you are presenting doctrine, which is not Church doctrine, as if it is Church doctrine.
        If the Church history and doctrine is not true, then the Church is hurting itself. You are not causing that by telling your story publicly. If the Church responds to people who are seeking the truth by excommunicating them, they are hurting themselves. You are not alienating people from the Church, they are. Instead, they should be supporting the people by providing the truth in return.
        The beneficial way for the Church to respond to its people is to be honest and accept the consequences. I am trying to support the Church by saying this.

  12. Jared
    April 3, 2015 at 12:05 pm

    One of the things that stands out to me about both interviews, is how incredibly patient and loving both you and Carson has been over the past 10 years while you’re beliefs and understandings of the gospel have been different. That alone speaks volumes about both your characters.

    Thanks for sharing your story!

  13. Kinglamoni
    April 3, 2015 at 12:13 pm

    Little kids excommunication. Lol, so true. Women sit at the kiddy table in the church. But it’s ok, because most of them are ok with that.

    • Marisa
      April 9, 2015 at 4:08 pm

      Yes, a surprising number of women, when they have heard the reasons I struggle with gender inequality in the church, will say “oh I never thought of that!” or “I never heard those words in the temple before you brought it to my attention” or “I don’t understand why you have a problem with that, I don’t mind it.” Feeling comfortable in a second-class position is something I have never understood.

  14. J. Reuben Clerk
    April 3, 2015 at 4:04 pm

    It’s amazing how a hundred things, which previously didn’t make sense, really do make sense now from the perspective that the Church isn’t what it claims to be. I loved that observation.

    As an active/unorthodox Mormon, I once had a conversation with another member who couldn’t figure out how Paul H. Dunn was allowed to serve so long as a general authority, while lying about his past. I felt like I had a secret superhero power (immune to that cognitive dissonance) because I knew the Church isn’t what it claims to be. (I didn’t give him the answer.)

  15. ABM
    April 3, 2015 at 4:53 pm

    I always admire the willingness to share personal experiences and opinions. I’m generally too introverted to do that so I have to say I do respect that ability and generosity. And I’m very glad to know that these folks have found themselves and their light and feel free and fulfilled and happy. I listen to this couple and I think, Fantastic! And I listen to the Givens (or the Bushmans) and I think, Fantastic! What’s the difference? They’re both smart, independent, genuine, informed, mature, considerate, ostensibly tolerant, willing to share and express, thoughtful, kind, charitable, and so forth and so on — Yet in spite of these commonly held attributes and motives their main frame of reference (or their conclusions? something) could not be more different. Why? How? Does it matter to anyone? To what extent? Does it matter to me and my family? I don’t know. What, if anything, do they believe as one?–Be true to yourself??? I suppose.

    One thing I do know: After listening to 90+ % of these podcasts it has become rather apparent to me that LDS people who grew up — for whatever reason — with an open-minded, accepting, tolerant view of others tend to remain that way; while LDS people who grew up — for whatever reason — with a rigid bigoted view of others also tend to remain that way whether they stay in the church or leave. One can blame the church, or the general authorities, or the temple, or the scriptures, or the founding, or whatever, but since there are so many divergent (even contradictory) results I for one must attribute cause to what are the obvious variables — parents, teachers, local leaders, siblings, friends, etc. I hear people say “this is how I thought because this is what I was taught…” and I just can’t relate. “I thought everyone else was unhappy.” Well, I didn’t. “I believed they were going to hell.” Well, I didn’t. What? I’m supposed to pretend we’re all the same? Why? That’s never been my observation or experience. I grew up in the same church, in a few different locales, and I was never taught that…or thaT…or THAT. Certainly not by my own parents. If I did hear something I didn’t like, appreciate, or agree with in church by some local leader or member I just dismissed it, chalked it up to misinformation, misinterpretation, ignorance, dishonesty, or some other malfeasance, well-intentioned or ill, and went along my merry way. People are strange. Who cares what Bro. So-and-so thinks anyways??? Work out your own salvation. It seems to me there’s a lot of generalization going on — both by proponents and opponents (or vice-versa, however you prefer to look at it). My blunt conclusion: Once a zealot, Always a zealot. Relatively speaking, it’s easier to turn the wheel and simply change directions than it is to safely slow down stop get out survey the landscape recalibrate the machine and start the journey anew. This is not peculiar to the LDS church, or as a matter of fact to any religion or society in the world. This is not peculiar to Utah, the United States, or as a matter of fact to any place in the world. Is it the Church’s fault? Or is it parents? Peers? Oneself? Personally I believe it’s the individual’s responsibility to learn, at some point hopefully sooner rather than later to be open minded.

    Try this Experiment: Listen to two interviews: The one with Edward Kimball and the one with Christine Clark. (Both children of general church leaders, fwiw.) Compare and contrast. Ask yourself some tough questions, such as whether the results had to do with “the church” or with “the home.” Then look at your own experience. It’s all very fascinating, I think.

    Good luck to all in finding purpose peace and happiness!

    “I admire men and women who have developed the questing spirit, who are unafraid of new ideas as stepping stones to progress. Neither fear of consequence or any kind of coercion should ever be used to secure uniformity of thought in the church. People should express their problems and opinions and be unafraid to think without fear of ill consequences.
    We must preserve freedom of the mind in the church and resist all efforts to suppress it.” ~HBB

    “You don’t know me; you never knew my heart. No man knows my history. I cannot tell it: I shall never undertake it. I don’t blame any one for not believing my history. If I had not experienced what I have, I could not have believed it myself.” ~JS

    “We claim the privilege of worshiping Almighty God according to the dictates of our own conscience, and allow all men the same privilege, let them worship how, where, or what they may.” ~ JS

    “The things of God are of deep import; and time, and experience, and careful and ponderous and solemn thoughts can only find them out.” ~JS

    • Marisa
      April 13, 2015 at 3:25 pm

      This is a very interesting perspective, and for the most part, I agree with it. Last summer as I was in the middle of my faith crisis, Carson and I had a long conversation with a couple of good friends who are still active in the church. We discussed the idea that a person will view God much as his or her own parents, and we discovered that each of the 4 of us did truly assume God to have the same general attributes or attitudes of our own parents, whether that be tolerance and flexibility or exactness and shaming. What stands out from what you said is that you have to have a strong sense of self and not blame an organization for your problems or your paradigm. While ultimately I agree that that’s true, for most individuals being raised in the LDS church diminishes the sense of self as you learn from an early age to follow your religious authorities as they tell you what to wear, do, eat, drink, and even think. Your quotes represent an age of Mormon thought that has been replaced by correlation and made irrelevant by the evidences available today. I believe that Hugh B. Brown would be appalled at the current state of the church where a vast majority of members are afraid to dissent and those who do are punished.

  16. Janice
    April 4, 2015 at 5:26 pm

    Marisa
    Loved your story. Bravo! Experienced many of the same things but I was 21 in the 60’s. Just a little further along the path. So many years of the rape of women’s hearts, trust and self value by the patriarchal dogma of calculated and subtle LDS conditioning first fabricated by Joseph Smith. His insatiable appetite for women and power influenced the groundwork for his “false doctrine” and drew those to him that would believe and foster his deceit.
    So happy for you that you are finding your voice and reclaiming your value as a woman and as an individual without shame or apology. After all the feminine represents 1/2 of all Creation and does not need men to tell her how to exercise her powers. He has his own work. Together they compliment and balance the whole.
    If you are still interested please do complete your doctorate and fulfill your educational dream. It will only enhance your many wonderful life accomplishments.
    People today are so fortunate to have access to the internet and the scholarly work of researchers to bring historical facts to life so people have a better chance to see what the Mormon Church really teaches and expects from their members. Please no more “Oh by the way this is what the ever-changing “JS Gospel” is really about ambush attacks in the name of God on innocent believers!
    My best to you and your family. Life really does just keep getting better.

  17. bh
    April 4, 2015 at 11:49 pm

    I enjoyed listening to the interviews with Carson and Marisa. As an active member, I feel that Mormonism has many wonderful attributes, but I don’t know that the Church or its leaders have ever claimed to be perfect. If someone has spent years trying to live a Mormon life and has had a difficult experience, I would want to hear their story in order to learn how to help future generations have a better experience. It just seems like the Christ-like thing to do. If our faith is threatened by hearing others tell of the doubts that they have, then maybe we need to focus more on examining our own faith, rather than trying to silence other viewpoints. Carson and Marisa, I hope that you will be allowed to remain in the Church if that is your wish, whether you chose to attend church now or not.

    • Marisa
      April 9, 2015 at 4:05 pm

      Thanks for your perspective. I think many in the church feel similarly, but unfortunately, those who do feel threatened and would silence doubters are often more vocal. I grew up hearing “The church is perfect, but it’s members aren’t” and “the prophet can never lead the church astray.” Because of this, for many years I thought that the reason I had problems with the church was because I wasn’t good enough, I was too prideful, too selfish. I am glad that you would want to hear another’s story to help to improve understanding within the church and hopefully people like you will make a difference.

  18. Mary
    April 5, 2015 at 7:26 am

    It was strange for me to listen to this podcast because I felt like you were telling so much of my life story – I was also a very serious child, read the scriptures cover to cover very early on, thought “I already know,” was really into academic prestige and music, had a devestating temple experience, depression from losing all the best parts of myself, and am even seeing Jennifer. I’d love to connect with you sometime. I think we would be good friends.

    • Carson
      April 6, 2015 at 3:33 pm

      Mary, if you haven’t already, reach out to her on Facebook. She’d like that.

  19. Shelley
    April 5, 2015 at 12:28 pm

    Great interview! Marisa is thoughtful, fun, genuine, and intelligent, what a great combination! I wanted to address the issue of “holding the church accountable” via excommunication. I resigned about 9 years ago, and the thought of holding the church accountable had never occurred to me. I can definitely see the advantages and the reasons behind waiting for excommunication. However, I do think it is important to acknowledge that there are good reasons to resign as well. I really felt that I needed to hold myself accountable to myself and to my children and grandchildren. I knew that almost all of my kids’ extended family would be LDS, and perhaps many friends. It was very important to me that my children and grandchildren were 100% aware that my husband and I left conscientiously, we didn’t get spiritually spanked and offended so we never went back. I also didn’t want to be associated with many Mormon issues anymore, from misogyny to homophobia, I didn’t want to be included in categories where I didn’t belong. I knew I claimed the freedom to speek to my experience and my conscience, but I was worried my LDS membership would hinder that. There were many reasons I resigned, but holding myself accountable to myself and my children was my primary motive. I don’t mean to say that resignation is the one-true-way, but just that I don’t think there is any shame in resigning. Either way, I wish the Calderwoods well!

  20. koa
    April 5, 2015 at 1:09 pm

    The only part that is somewhat unclear from this interview is related to why Marisa didn’t pursue a Ph.D.

    This decision was 100% up to her and Carson. It looks like they decided to focus on him to attend dental school.

    • Carson
      April 6, 2015 at 3:32 pm

      Koa, it was alluded to but not directly stated. She felt pressure from those classes at BYU that to be a good Mormon women she would have to sacrafice herself and her desires to the “greater good” of having children, not putting that off, etc. I should say we, not just her. I did encourage her to do wait and get education first, but didn’t push for two reasons. 1-I wanted to let her do what she wanted and 2-I wondered too if that was the better thing to do (listen to the church leaders and not put off getting married and having kids for education). Wish we hadn’t done that, but now we have older kids at a young age so we’ll just have to get there (education for Marisa) at a later time than we otherwise would have done.

      • Koa
        April 6, 2015 at 5:21 pm

        This doesn’t make any sense as there are many talented mormon women with graduate degrees, with some being distinguished professors at BYU.

        Does BYU admit women into their law school? Does BYU admit women into their Ph.D. programs? Of course they do.

        • JC
          April 7, 2015 at 12:54 pm

          You’re missing the point. Those women that you’re talking about are likely (if they’re mormon and are TBMs) getting their degrees at the risk of being labeled as disobedient, rebelious or both. Yes, there are women that have no problem brushing those feelings off but it’s not easy for others.

        • Bill
          April 7, 2015 at 1:09 pm

          Koa, of course there are many talented Mormon women with graduate degrees and law degrees. However, there can be no arguing that if they pursued these avenues after getting married, they ignored the advice of their PH leaders.

  21. Erik Jorgensen
    April 5, 2015 at 5:16 pm

    Marisa,
    I just listened to your interview and enjoyed it very much. I grew up near Sugarhouse in a neighborhood where it seemed everyone was Mormon including all my friends. What set me apart is our family were not church members and did not attend any church. When I asked my parents what we were my mom explained that they both had been indoctrinated into different religions as children and both came to have doubts. While they had their beliefs, they didn’t feel they had all the answers and didn’t feel it would be right to force a belief system on me. My mom encouraged me to find my own answers when I was ready and even attend church with my friends if I wished. I took that mission very seriously and to this day I am so thankful to have been given that freedom. I was so glad to hear you’re giving your children similar respect and freedom. I’ll leave you with a quote from someone who I consider to have been a great source of wisdom.

    “Skeptical scrutiny is the means, in both science and religion, by which deep thoughts can be winnowed from deep nonsense.” — Carl Sagan

  22. Pam
    April 5, 2015 at 9:52 pm

    Marisa,

    I really enjoyed the interview. I had some experiences growing up that mirrored yours. Both the ones about reading the BOM at a super early age and also the EFY one–I had that exact experience! And how you internalized the Gospel and used it to navigate your life into a sort of bondage–it so resonated with my own experience. We just stopped going to church in January and so this interview was very timely for me as we are just now broaching this with loved ones and friends. I feel the same way about raising my children out of the church but have been unable to articulate it well to anybody with some doubts still remaining on how to do it. I really appreciated your take on that. Thank you for being brave and thank you for sharing.

  23. Gary in Oregon
    April 6, 2015 at 2:17 am

    Marisa, thank you for refusing to allow the Church to embroider your name on a doormat. Your openness and candor will help more people than you’ll ever imagine who are struggling to understand why their alleged LDS happiness is only ‘garment deep.’ Your comparing your Jesus Jammies to a prison jumpsuit was priceless! As you have discovered, the only ‘iron rods’ in Mormonism surround the virtual jail cells that stunt spiritual growth and prevent decent people from blossoming as God intended into their authentic, magnificent, true selves.

  24. S
    April 6, 2015 at 6:56 am

    Thanks so much for this interview. My family and I recently stopped attending church for almost the same reasons in this interview. I too was so deeply unhappy with my assigned role, yet felt unable to fully express my discontent because of my belief that I needed to bend to the gospel defined roles. I also took the gospel very seriously, was very studious, and perused lots of science classes at BYU. I really felt, like you said, that you put your own development on hold.
    It was only after my husband and I went to counseling that I realized I needed to give voice to my desires and that they were good enough. Once I began on this path, I saw more and more subtle ways the church’s messages were undermining my ability to be a fully equal partner in marriage and feel valued as a woman.
    I was so glad to hear that I wasn’t the only one that hates being judged by the Mormon community. I agree that things as simple as wearing a tank-top can make us feel open to judgement.
    Good Luck on this journey. I think it does take tremendous courage and I really appreciate you putting a voice to what I feel too..It feels great to not be alone!

  25. Haika
    April 6, 2015 at 2:25 pm

    Great interview. I was particularly struck by the mother-in-law who ends all her phone conversation with “We still love you guys.” That is essentially the battle cry of those of us in the not-Mormon community who are struggling to hang on to our newly converted children. To every new member who comes in and tells the all too familiar tale of how their child got converted and the subsequent deterioration of their relationship with that child, those of us who have been in the group for years respond in unison: love them, love them, love them with no strings attached, despite it all, with all your heart and never let them forget it. Funny how when the tables are turned, few Mormons with friends or relatives leaving see the necessity of this.

  26. Mamasan
    April 6, 2015 at 5:01 pm

    Your interview almost brought me to tears. This is the first time I have ever heard a woman express my thoughts about the temple experience and relationship with the Church. You were articulate, reasonable and genuine. You will never know the effect this podcast has had on me. Mentally I left the church months ago. Out of my respect for my husband’s desire to maintain his employment with the Church and my unwillingness to subject myself to the scrutiny of many of my relatives and associates I feel unable to live my life in a genuine manner. Thankfully, my husband and I reached the same conclusions about the church at relatively the same time. His reasons are similar but not the same as mine. Thank you John D and Marisa for this incredible interview.

  27. Koa
    April 6, 2015 at 5:23 pm

    Any updates? I thought John indicated he would keep his audience up-to-date.

    Best of luck with any decisions you make.

  28. CJ
    April 6, 2015 at 6:25 pm

    Marisa,

    Thank you for speaking out to the world with your story. I relate in so many ways, it’s almost bizarre. My husband and I have a very similar story and many of my life experiences mirror yours. That’s the funny thing about Mormons is you can just meet and know almost exactly what they have experienced. My current struggle is being in this no-mans land: it feels too painful to stay and yet too painful at times to fully leave. I’m happy and in awe of how quickly and healthily you seemed to have made the transition. I’m hoping to arrive at that point sooner than later. Thanks again.

  29. kristen
    April 6, 2015 at 6:54 pm

    I appreciate the honesty and openness of this interview. I am so happy to hear that you feel peace. The only part of the interview that was confusing to me is the reasons you gave for not perusing your academic dreams. I have known so many, many Mormon women who are doctors, lawyers, business women, PhD holders etc. It seems you had all of what it took to be whatever you wanted. How did you come to the conclusion you did when many other Mormon women go on to fulfill their academic and professional dreams? No judgement here, just honest confusion. And I hope you know it’s not too late for you to become whatever you would like to be. My good friend who is almost 50 is just finishing up her PhD!

  30. Jeni S
    April 6, 2015 at 11:52 pm

    Thank you for this very well written article. All the points mentioned is exactly the same as what my husband and I are discussing as well.

  31. JC
    April 7, 2015 at 9:40 am

    Hi Marisa,

    What a great interview. I loved the idea that after enduring the storm, you two were able to come out on the other side with an aligned goal of what is best for both of you. I so whish my story was the same and I had a supportive partner. My wife filed for divorce a couple weeks ago and while we’re trying to work things out right now, it is coming down to our ability to find a way to do this with her as TBM and me as pretty much “out”. I reflected SO much on your words about the mormon church not having a space for middle of the road mormons. I tried, believe me. But depending on your ward, you’ll feel more or less rejected. I really feel hopeless at the moment and just overwhelmed by the feeling of losing my family over the church. No church should be allowed to come between spouses. Period.

    I wish my wife was more critical and independent like you. Carson is a very lucky guy.

    Good luck to both of you and wish you the best!

  32. harry
    April 7, 2015 at 10:24 am

    What I don’t understand is if you choose to not attend church or believe it any longer that is your choice but to act surprised if you get excommunicated for trying to change church doctrine should be no surprise at all. This is America and no religion needs to change for you. If you don’t like it move on but quit wasting yours and others time trying to make everyone belive the way you do. It seems that women or men or anyone who try to change society beliefs just really want atention. We live in a time where women and men alike can do as they please. I know many women that are active Lds and have a PhD or many other professional degrees. The fact that you and you alone chose not to pursue further education is your choice and yours alone. Also I like how the church gave you a scholarship to pursue your educational goals but you chose not to get married use birth control and become pregnant. All your choices again. No one forced you but yourself.

    • johnny alibi
      April 9, 2015 at 7:52 pm

      besides stating her doubts in a letter, marisa has not sone anything that would incite excommunication. what her story really highlights is the sad truth that certain members and leaders would rather send you to hell than to “rescue” you.

      regardless of whether the person on trial believes it or not, the leader and member who condemns do believe that resignation and excommunication result in a person losing their place in the celestial kingdom. having this knowledge, a leader who has the love of christ would spend a lot of time meeting with this person so they dont lose their place in heaven. instead, these leaders were quick to ask for their resignation (from the celestial kingdom, in the orthodox mormons view) and will probably be quick to send them to hell, as long as they dont miss dinner. so please, get off your high rameumptom.

  33. Jill
    April 7, 2015 at 1:35 pm

    Marisa,

    Like so many other women, so much of what you said resonated with my experience. My husband and I stopped attending church in October, and our oldest is also 13. I took the same LDS Marriage and Family class at BYU, and that manual left little to the imagination when it came to God’s expectations for women and mothers. I also had dreams of academic/career pursuits, though by the time I was 12 or 13, I could say with tears in my eyes that I would sacrifice those to do what God wanted me to do – stay home and raise a family.

    Re-evaluating those decisions and planning for the future with new insights and information has been painful and scary and exciting all at the same time. I am so grateful to you and the many others who have been interviewed on Mormon Stories who continue to share/validate our experience, express hope for personal and institutional change, and to share the story of one. Thank you, thank you.

  34. maddy
    April 7, 2015 at 5:32 pm

    Some things rang a bell with me–the temple experience and the disregard by my local leaders.

    I think church leaders view people like the Calderwoods, who sympathize rather than argue against doubt, as those who undermine faith, regardless of whether the people already had doubts or not. Can’t have that in the church. Ostensibly it is okay to have doubts as long as you keep it to yourself.

    So, we must suffer in silence.

    For me personally I don’t feel comfortable being their main/first source of troubling historical information. But, if someone came to me, troubled by their doubts, I would sympathize and listen, letting them figure it out for themselves.

    All the best Calderwoods!

  35. Kristen Dang
    April 7, 2015 at 11:09 pm

    Marisa,
    What a brave interview, thank you for sharing.

    My childhood was similar to yours in that I was also very intellectually motivated and had dreams of obtaining an advanced degree. I am so sad to hear how you gave up your dream. I hope you reconsider and see whether it might fit into your life at a later time. I am a full-time working scientist and mother of two small children living not so far away from you in south Seattle. Please reach out on linkedin if you would like to talk about being a working mom in science.

    All the best for you and your family!

  36. Skip Cameron
    April 8, 2015 at 11:20 am

    Marisa and Carson,

    tl;dr version: I LOVED hearing your stories. My wife and I are going through a similar situation (explained in detail below) and I believe your stories will likely prove to be valuable tools as we figure out our way forward. Thank you so much for sharing and I wish you all the best.

    ——

    For the past year I’ve been going through a faith transition that was spurred by a couple of things: First, the Church’s admission in the “Race and the Priesthood” essay was devastating to my belief that—as is so often said in the Church—“The prophet will NEVER lead the Church astray.” That realization—that prophets could be wrong about important things, not just trivial/opinion-based matters—led to the second factor which was realizing that the Church may also be “wrong” in some of its teachings about sexuality. I concluded that, as the Church did with race, it has very likely absorbed and assimilated the “doctrines of men” when it comes to sexuality and the Puritanical/sex-negative/body-negative (which Dr. Finlayson-Fife so astutely called out as contradicting our uniquely Mormon doctrine) attitudes of American/Western culture, and now teaches “the philosophies of men, mingled with scripture” as the mind and will of God.

    I learned about masturbation as a 14-year old at Soccer camp from some “gentile” kids and, not really knowing what I was doing, accidentally accomplished it a few months later. Immediately, I felt like I had done something seriously wrong, but I didn’t understand HOW wrong it was until I started getting those chastity and morality lessons in YM and seminary and reading the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet. I fully believed that I was guilty of “the sin next to murder.” But this was worse than murder, which all but a depraved few only do once, because I was doing this repeatedly and couldn’t make myself stop. I felt like a serial killer in the eyes of God, and that it would be easier for him to forgive a bona fide murderer than me because at least a murder would probably learn his lesson and not do it again. But not me.

    (*Here’s a great article published in Salon.com that closely parallels my experience, and the experience of countless other “Good Mormon Boys.” Man, do we need to do a better job in this area. http://www.salon.com/2012/09/14/sins_of_a_good_mormon_boy/)

    I made a “Sin Chart”—an outline of myself giving two thumbs down—on graph paper and put it up on my wall next to my bed. Every time I would fall to weakness I will fill in a few boxes, depending on how hard I had tried to resist. I left it out where friends and family could see in the hope that the increased shame would translate into increased resolve. It did, but it still wasn’t enough, and each failure of will was compounding the despair and hopelessness.

    Eventually, I read scriptures like Mark 9:43 (“If thy hand offend thee, cut if off…”), Alma 9:19 (what I call the “Merciful Destruction” scripture), and Mosiah 16:5 (“He that persists in his own carnal nature…is as though there was no redemption made, being an enemy to God…”) which led me to conclude that I was better to kill myself than go on in sin against “such great light and knowledge.” I seriously believed that my chances in the hereafter would be infinitely better if I were to be judged for a single self-murder compared to a lifetime filled with sins next to murder.
    There were three times I came really close to going through with it: Once in high school, once as a freshman at BYU, and once last year as a married father of four.

    Finally, after almost 20 years, I decided to ask God what he thought about me, rather than taking the Church’s/scriptures’/culture’s word for it, as I always had. I knelt in prayer and asked God, “Does this make me a bad person? Do you hate me because of this?” I received a spiritual response as strong as any I’d ever had. “No” came the answer, “No. This does not make you a bad person. It never has. I’ve never hated you for this. I love you. You’re my son. You always thought you knew that I hated you, so you never asked me if it was true. I’m so glad you asked, so I can tell you that I don’t hate you. I’ve never hated you. I love you, and I’m sorry you’ve felt so much pain for so long because of this thing. You’re ok. You’re ok. I want you to be happy. Be happy.”

    Shortly thereafter I came out to my wife about the struggles of my past 20 years, which I’d largely kept secret, and she has had a very difficult time. She feels a tremendous amount of conflict seeing the extensive and real damage that some of the Church’s doctrines and teachings have done to me, and yet she loves the Church and believes it to be true. Consequently, she feels like she has to choose between me and the Church and has a lot of anger and resentment toward me for changing her beliefs in a way that she didn’t want and doesn’t know if she can change them back.

    Marisa, so many of the things that you said in the interview mirrored so precisely the thoughts, feelings, anger, frustration, resentment, confusion, and struggles that my wife has been going through. She had a moment of “My husband is NOT a bad person. The Church is wrong about this.” But that moment and others like it have been so difficult for her to integrate and process. We’ve been working on this for about six months now and it has been very painful, but I’ve never felt better about myself and my life. Sadly, she’s never felt worse. I think your story would help her to really feel understood and not so alone, but I think she’s too scared to listen to it for what it might mean to her. Currently, her need to cling to her identity/history/old life is still stronger than her need to feel understood. But should those priorities shift, I’m glad that I can point her in the direction of your podcast. Thank you so much for sharing.

    *I would have sent this to you as a PM on Facebook, but I deleted my Facebook account last year and have never looked back. 🙂

  37. Aimee
    April 8, 2015 at 2:02 pm

    Marisa:

    I just finished listening to your interview, wonderful interview! I can relate to your story so much & applaud you for speaking out.

    Best wished to you and your family.

  38. C
    April 9, 2015 at 12:06 pm

    Amazing interview. Marisa seems so genuine. Great stuff.

  39. Marisa
    April 9, 2015 at 3:41 pm

    Hi everyone, I have tried several times to respond to comments and it wasn’t working from my computer. It looks like Carson has been able to respond from work. If I can figure it out I will respond to comments directly, if not, thanks everyone for your kind words and support! We haven’t heard from the Stake President yet regarding our disciplinary councils, we will definitely update when we do!

  40. Kristen Wilde
    April 9, 2015 at 7:25 pm

    Thanks for sharing your story, Marisa. Like you, I really struggled to understand what God wanted from me in terms of career preparation. Now with my post-Mormon perspective (I stopped attending 1 year ago), i can see how damaging the Church’s expectations for women really were for me. That is the #1 reason I decided I could not continue taking my children to church. I am going to look for you on Facebook!

  41. Cory
    April 9, 2015 at 8:01 pm

    This is so good! Just love to hear her explain the symptoms of faithful church attendance, kids and family, etc.

  42. Johnny Alibi
    April 9, 2015 at 8:38 pm

    Marisa,

    I loved your interview! You were straight forward and unafraid to express how you felt and the trials you’ve gone through. I wish more sisters were like you.

    As advice, since you’ve decided not to resign, I recommend two things:

    1) If your bishop hasn’t done this already (with either you or your husband), ask him to send you a letter that states the reasons why you are being disciplined. This way, you have a chance to “repent” if you’d like to, and you will know exactly what issues these particular leaders have with you, so you can better defend yourself when trial time comes.

    2) Since your leaders accuse you of leading others away, and they won’t give you the names for privacy reasons, ask the leaders to contact these members who’ve been “led astray” asking them to write a letter/affidavit answering the question “have cameron and marisa led you astray?”. That way, these members can privately testify that they’ve had issues before and that you weren’t at fault for their falling out, instead you helped them stay longer than they otherwise would have. Also, if they comply, ask them to read these letters (without reading the names) during your trial, so that every council member knows that you did these people no harm.

    Even if they decide to ignore them, at least they won’t be able to “punish” you with a clear conscience, if they have any.

    Best of luck to you and your husband!

    • Marisa
      April 13, 2015 at 3:14 pm

      That’s some great advice, thanks!

  43. Steve
    April 9, 2015 at 8:47 pm

    So did I hear John correctly? Did Margi resign? What about your kids?

    • April 9, 2015 at 8:58 pm

      Margi yes. Kids no.

  44. Kristin
    April 10, 2015 at 9:14 am

    Marisa, thank you so much for sharing your story. Your experience felt very familiar. I also headed into college with a bright mind and a bushel of scholarships and a plan. Then I married at 19 the summer after my freshman year and put my life on hold. That sense of loss of self is so hard. Also, Your analogy of the dominoes was so spot on.

    Listening to your story gave me that feeling of comfort that comes when I feel like I’ve been heard and understood. Thank you.

  45. Allison
    April 13, 2015 at 7:00 am

    Marisa, your painfully beautiful (beautifully painful) story kept me company this morning, all the way in Switzerland. Your courage and authenticity and honesty are absolutely inspiring. Wishing you and your family all the very best as you move on.

    And a huge thank you to John, as always, for the lifeline. So grateful.

  46. Nate Munson
    April 13, 2015 at 2:08 pm

    Thanks so much for sharing your experiences. Invaluable to me as I work my way through the struggle to figure out our plan going forward. Appreciate your willingness and courage to tell your story publicly.

  47. Jennifer Hales
    April 13, 2015 at 11:09 pm

    I loved this interview. I listened to Carson’s too and feel so much solidarity with the two of you. My husband and I moved to Snoqualmie a couple of years ago from Utah, right in the middle of our faith transition. So many of the elements of your story could have been our story.

    I also relate to many of your childhood experiences. I was also the sit in the front of the class kind of girl and even went to political summer camp in Washington DC and met Madeline Albright…seriously who does that? Looking back I see two things that changed my fate: 1. my mom worked when I was growing up, and even had some fairly high level corporate jobs. My dad was always 100% supportive. 2. I went to USC instead of BYU. I had the BYU application in my hands and was telling my sister I was going to apply. She took it and said that would be a big mistake…She was right. I was afraid that the debate team captain in me would rebel when the shorts police showed up. 3. I married the most supportive man in the world and he put me though school because he knew that is what I wanted. When my career took off he stood by me every step of the way. I am so happy that I didn’t ever take the BYU marriage and family class. Thankfully no one ever taught me that everything I wanted was wrong. I think that would have been my undoing.

  48. Missy
    April 16, 2015 at 3:25 pm

    Your story is much like my story. I really struggled in college to find something that “God wanted me to do” I was receiving a lot of mixed messages and struggled to reconcile my ambition with the very dogmatic gender roles that I was taught (in YW and in the marriage and family class you mentioned). Also right with you in regards with your temple experience. It was very painful for me as well and frustrating that the very obvious inequalities were flatly denied by every mormon friend and family member I talked to. Insult to injury – it was as if everyone I trusted and loved thought there was something wrong with me for being hurt by male centrism in the temple. I was just looking at it wrong. Thanks for speaking up. It helps a lot to know others have experiences like mine.

  49. April 20, 2015 at 4:21 pm

    Excellent interview! I have listened to Mormon Stories for about 5 years now, but have never commented on anything. I can identify so much with Marisa’s story. I was bright and ambitious in high school and University, but always had an underlying fear of my talents and abilities because of the messages taught in Young Women’s about what I “should” do with my life. I even went to Graduate School and received my M.F.A. but the whole while I was doing it I felt an amazing amount of fear, anxiety, and sadness because I knew I wouldn’t do anything with my degree. I literally felt like my passion for dance was a temptation from Satan to lead me away from home life. Ironically babies didn’t come easily or quickly to us (still don’t!), and instead of using that time to blossom and shine I became depressed and practically sat around just living life as though I would be having a baby any time for years and years. Thankfully I have been wrestling my way through my faith crisis and am in a space where I can follow my heart, and do things professionally that are fulfilling to me because I WANT to do them. And I can see that I am much happier when I feel like I choose my level of professional engagement and it not not something externally applied due to cultural conditioning. I am a slow learner with anything personal so I am still evolving my Faith Crisis. It was very liberating to hear Marisa say that she just outright does not believe the Church is true and is bold in letting all of that go. We have not attended Church regularly for 2.5 years now, don’t wear our garments, etc. etc. but I still haven’t been able to allow myself to REALLY say, “I think it might not be true. And I am going to do something about it.” We just sort of slid away and leave it very open to what that means for the future. Thank you for sharing your story.

  50. StrangerinZion
    April 27, 2015 at 1:51 pm

    Thank you for being brave, I am yet to be this brave to stand for truth. Just know their guns are filled with blanks. In the end they don’t have any power.

  51. April 27, 2015 at 9:56 pm

    Marisa,

    Wishing you and Carson peace and happiness in this horrible time. Never “Doubt your Doubts” as has been advised. Be a comfort to each other and enjoy the happiness that you are finally seeing that has been held back from you for so long.

    God Bless

    Jon Marshall
    Logan, Utah

  52. Not So Much
    April 28, 2015 at 10:46 pm

    Mormon Stories is its own campfire. I love coming here and listening and learning from all that is shared. I have to admit, though, I struggled with this podcast.

    From John’s introduction to Marisa’s own description of herself we are left with this image of a bright, passionate, curious, outgoing young woman whose potential and happiness have been compromised by the LDS church. We are lead to believe that any life and spark a woman has will likely not survive within Mormonism. Huh?

    Marisa compares her garments to a prison jumpsuit. I think she is lacking some serious insight into the fact that putting garments on is the beginning of marriage and family for most LDS women and so it was most likely her marriage and her choice to stay home that compromised her physically not her garments. Being married and raising children can be very challenging and stressful independent of Mormonism.

    I think Marisa’s story has less to do with women’s second class status in the church and more to do with how difficult it is to be a stay-at-home mother. Particularly how difficult it is for Marisa. Many stay-at-home mom’s struggle to find value in this type of work. Many stay at home mom’s are depressed. Many struggle to set boundaries, take time for themselves, and develop their talents. This is not the plight of just Mormon women who stay home but almost all women who stay home. And frankly, balance is something everyone struggles with whether they are Mormon or not, whether they are a man or a woman, whether they work inside or outside of the home.

    And, for John to seem surprised that a young LDS woman in the 90s could be as ambitious as Marisa was shocking. C’mon John. The LDS church may get a lot of things wrong but it also gets a lot of things right insofar as it inspires and motivates the youth regardless of gender to pursue excellence in every aspect of their lives.

    I don’t know the whole podcast from beginning to end felt rather misleading…and for the record I am a woman and no longer active in the church.

  53. Nancy
    April 30, 2015 at 12:05 am

    Thanks so much for sharing your story. I loved everything you said.

  54. Marisa
    May 2, 2015 at 12:08 pm

    Not So Much: I hear what you’re saying about stay-at-home-motherhood being difficult for many women, regardless of religion. However, I disagree that in my case religion didn’t play a part in my depression. Currently I am still a stay-at-home-mom with 4 kids, but I feel much better about my position because I feel like I am truly choosing to do it. When I was an active member, I felt like any other choice would make me less righteous and therefore was not a valid choice. Also I felt like I couldn’t be myself in ways that weren’t seen as acceptable, and to use one of my new favorite quotes: “Depression is repression of expression.”

    Also, I disagree that garments did not act as a symbol of oppression in my life. The first two years that I wore garments I was not yet a mother, I was a BYU student, but still I felt extremely different, depressed, pulling my shoulders in. I am still married and still a stay-at-home-mom but I have felt a very noticeable difference since I stopped wearing garments and stopped allowing myself to feel second-class.

    The problem with what the church says to young women is that it’s like a bait-and-switch. “You can be anything you want to be!*” *But if you’re truly righteous and unselfish you will forego a career to support your husband and be at home with your kids.

    And finally, not everyone’s spark will be dimmed by Mormonism, but I have personally seen it happen in the lives of women I love and I felt it happening to me, and that is enough for me to want to speak up for freedom and equality.

  55. Not So Much
    May 2, 2015 at 8:55 pm

    Spot on Marisa.

    I want you to know, like other listeners, I support you in the decision you made. I could have been more balanced in my remarks as 99% of what you said deeply resonated with me. Frankly, I was feeling snarky the night I posted. I couldn’t get passed what I perceived as a cliche scenario John was setting up with his intro: “Hinckley Scholar, to Depressed Mormon Housewife, to Happiness as a Post-Mormon” followed by you early on making some comment about resigning yourself to being bored and popping out a million babies. It bothered me. Of course this podcast isn’t about the value of staying home, the sacrifices women make to stay home, and the challenge of doing it successfully or happily. I am just sensitive about how hotly debated this topic is among women who stay home and women who work outside the home.

    Religion definitely played a part in your depression and garments acted as a symbol of repression in your life. Liberty to choose is essential to anyone’s happiness and perhaps that is the Church’s biggest bait and switch. The illusion of choice. I am glad you are making your own choices according to the dictates of your own conscience. Our hearts are more alike than they are different.

    • Deven
      May 4, 2015 at 2:52 pm

      The illusion of choosing your own consequences is the illusion part of choice, in any setting not just in church theology.

    • Marisa
      May 7, 2015 at 8:12 pm

      Thanks for your reply, I am glad we mostly agree! 🙂

  56. Deven
    May 4, 2015 at 2:49 pm

    I have two thoughts on the podcast,
    “…harken to your husband as he harkens to the lord”. The other half of the sentence helps with context. Faith is vital when information is incomplete.

    I have found your podcasts informative personally, I would love to have more podcasts on here with people who have heard all the conflicting histories/facts and find themselves still believing. Not so much to help myself but I find it fascinating when intelligent people have and use faith to some extent. Most of the listeners seem to find those podcasts offensive and say such in the comments but I appreciate hearing both sides. Anyway, Cheers!

    • Marisa
      May 7, 2015 at 8:10 pm

      Deven, I am well aware of the second half of that sentence, as I’m sure all temple-attenders are. Without the second half, agreeing to such would be unconscionable. With it, women feel slightly less subjugated knowing that they have an “out,” but it still effectively puts women in second place and endangers our confidence and equal partnership in marriage. I only have one life and I choose not to follow systems that look bad and feel wrong in my heart, no matter how strong my faith in God.

      I think your comments show the distorted view of faith as encouraged by the leadership of the LDS church. Intelligent people who know all the facts about the history and doctrine of the church cannot have “faith” that those facts are not true, or that somehow it all makes sense even though evidence to the contrary is staring you in the face. Faith is to go beyond what we can possibly know, to believe in God when we truly can not know whether s/he exists or does not exist.

  57. CG
    May 13, 2015 at 12:40 pm

    Marisa,
    Thank you for sharing your story. It could have literally been pulled from my own life story. Almost beat for beat. I couldn’t help but think, for so long, that something must be wrong with me–after all, the system could NEVER lead me astray, right? But, no. Here we are. The spiritual framework for our lives was defective and, as I say, destructive to my soul. Your courage and strength are appreciated, and I am grateful to know I am not alone.
    And, btw- Jennifer Finlayson-Fife is amazing. Because of her and others (and due to my own experience) I’ve modified education/career path do do what she is doing–in order to help others like you and me.

  58. Koa
    May 20, 2015 at 3:07 pm

    Best of luck tomorrow night. It seems odd kicking out some of the brightest, and I wonder for what purpose. Perhaps there is much more to the story, but I just don’t see it.

    Looking forward to future updates.

  59. exmo
    May 22, 2015 at 5:01 am

    As far as Church “discipline” if they had called me in I doubt I would have gone. I and my family suffered enough casual abuse at the hands of the church while a member since birth.

    Now I and my sons are out of the hellish organization and all of us feel much better. It killed their beliefs in God without killing the innate goodness of their souls. For me? The Mcconkie method of pretending to be Christian while acting like a bunch of Catholic Jesuits in the inquisition turned me firmly away.

    I love many church members. I now can’t understand how they adhere to this barbaric and hellish organization. The whole thing made me sad and now I am glad I left. I never gave them a letter. I just told them to go away and never come back. Better for me and better for them.

  60. May 23, 2015 at 6:14 pm

    Just wanted you to know that as a resigned member..that I appreciate your voice in shining a light on the many issues that affect all of us.

    I have defended you on the Mormon Discussion Board and it is amazing that all those assumptions are still well and alive in Mormondom. I was a member for over 40 years..I remember things way before the essays and many other changes. As a child..it is hard to shake and believe again..so I left. May you still be able to many good things and for heaven’s sakes…get back to science…(smile)

    • Marisa
      May 24, 2015 at 1:01 pm

      Hi Vickie, which board is it being discussed on? I’m curious 🙂

  61. May 23, 2015 at 6:45 pm

    This is a question for John..is there a transcript of this interview somewhere? I cannot hear and if there is no CC I miss out on a lot.

    Thanks,
    Vickie

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