After being raised by an orthodox Mormon mother and a “redneck, somewhat Jack Mormon Pioneer stock dad,” Gretchen Day decided that she was going to be an “all in” Mormon mother. After getting engaged at age 19 (as a BYU Freshman), Gretchen went on to get married in the LDS temple, and to fulfill many of the stereotypes of a Utah County Ultra-Orthodox Mormon mother, including:
- Having 8 children.
- Homeschooling her children using Book of Mormon-based curriculum.
- Raising her children with little to no media.
- Imposing strict “modesty” guidelines on her children (mostly her daughters).
- Doing at least one underwater home birth.
- Pursuing strict dietary practices (“perfect eating) such as restricting sugar, eating only raw, vegan foods, etc.
Over time, Gretchen’s ultra-orthodox Mormon dream began to crumble in several different ways:
- She began to experience serious depression.
- She started making serious life decisions based on “spiritual experiences” based on feelings — that may not have been very healthy for her (in hindsight).
- Some of her children started to lose their testimonies of the church.
- She had a son who became seriously depressed and ultimately suicidal, based in part on inhumane “worthiness” interviews conducted by well-intentioned bishops, mission, and stake presidents – who were/are operating within an abusive system. This included feeling pressure to lie about his faith crisis to his home ward and BYU bishop, in order to keep his place at BYU and to stay in good standing with the church.
- She began learning about factual Mormon church history (e.g., polygamy, Book of Mormon problems), which became deeply triggering for her.
As Gretchen’s faith began to crumble, she started to feel trapped within the Utah County Mormon bubble.
- Should she lie to her son about her faith journey, as he was preparing to leave on his mission, or should she be honest with him and risk spoiling his experience?
- Was she trapped in a “Mormon mafia” of sorts, with no escape?
- Should she “come out” to fellow ward members and leadership, and risk social ostracization?
- Or should she quietly “fade away” from church activity to avoid any conflict?
In Gretchen’s case, she decided to leave the church in a very vocal fashion. This has included:
- Writing a letter/email to ward members to explain why she was leaving the church.
- Inviting her bishopric to attend a “Resignation Speech” that she offered to them, primarily with the intent of recovering her lost voice as a Mormon woman, and speaking her truth.
- Diving deeply into the “cult” and “unethical persuasion” literature,
- Creating a web site to share her story and perspectives with the world.
- Authoring a series of children’s books to help parents educate their children about how to avoid falling prey to undue influence of any sort.
If you are seeking a powerful, inspiring story of one ultra-orthodox Utah county Mother’s journey out of Mormonism, this is it. If you enjoyed the interviews of folks like Donna Showalter, Leah Young, you will deeply treasure this interview (but only after it breaks your heart).