Stories of Women (and Men) Who Feel They Have Been Harmed by Mormon Patriarchy

John Dehlin Feminism, Mormon Stories, Women Stories 174 Comments

If you are a current or former Mormon woman (or man) who feels as though you have been harmed by Mormon patriarchy, please include your story here.

Note: Please do not comment on other people’s stories.  For this post, I would like it to only contain people’s direct stories.  Thanks in advance.

Comments 174

  1. My story is long, complicated and painful. I will share the summary of my experience that I sent to Kate Kelly’s priesthood leaders prior to her excommunication:

    Despite being an active, believing member for the first 30 years of my life, my faith in the LDS Church came at a very high cost in terms of how I functioned and thrived in my personal life as a woman.

    From a very young age, I was aware that women who find themselves not desiring to bear and raise children were not in harmony with God. This caused me a great deal of personal anxiety that could have been softened by a more expansive view of what women are capable of.

    Despite having lost my faith and being inactive for several years, the rise of the Ordain Women movement and the issues surrounding gender in the Church reawakened both interest and hope for progress in this area. It also reactivated the pain and frustration I experienced during my years in the Church, as I witnessed abusive comments directed at Kate Kelly and OW members from their fellow faithful members. This, in addition to the Church’s refusal to ever meet with these sisters face-to-face to hear their concerns, confirmed to me once again that for women who are unable to mold themselves into the limited role deemed as acceptable, life in the Church can become excruciating to the point that it becomes detrimental to their emotional well-being.

    The LDS Church has a view of women that is so archaic that it would take generations to change even if it were to ordain women today. Ordaining women is not the last step to giving women an equal voice in the Church — it is the first. But deciding that it’s not even willing to have a conversation about it demonstrates that the Church desires to regress to a point that is bound to compound shame and embarrassment when the chasm between its view on gender equality and that of future generations becomes even more stark.

    To those who I hope actually take the time to read this, know that either way, your decision regarding Kate Kelly (and now John Dehlin) will make history. I therefore urge you to seriously and honestly consider, in good conscience, what your name(s), participation and decision will mean to the future generations that look back at this pivotal moment in LDS history.

    Claudia Reppen
    Oslo, Norway stake

    http://ordainwomen.org/project/hi-im-claudia/

    1. Hello,

      My story is not that much different than so many other girls’ stories.

      I struggled with the same issues:
      _______
      -Career decisions and being moralistically pushed to not have a career. Being told that my place was in the home and only in the home.
      I am 29 now and coming around to the idea that my kids might do better seeing their mother live a complete live – whatever I chose it to be.

      _____
      -The prevalent belief in my home of origin that my father’s thoughts and ideas were divine and inspired and the ultimate authority.
      -this sometimes but not always made him feel like he didn’t have to apologize.
      -this sometimes but not always made him make really stupid decisions based on whims he mistook for the spirit.
      -which sometimes but not always meant he took us with him.
      -When I was troubled, priesthood blessings were occasionally used to support the agenda of xyz, instead of having my best interest in mind.
      -However the reason for everything ALWAYS had the addendum that God wanted us to…

      _____
      -I had to confess my sexual ‘transgressions’ aka “what’s this?” to a man 20+ years older than me who was also a good friend’s father.

      ______
      – My husband and I are best buds, and still to this day I am often pushed and prodded at to ‘be a better wife’.
      Nevermind that I have the most amazing, enviable, real, awesome marriage in the world. I don’t do the dishes enough, so therefore, I must be lacking.
      Heaven forbid my husband does them to be nice to me.

      ______
      – I left the church because I didn’t believe. I didn’t sin. I just don’t believe, and it’s super hard talking to my family and friends because they don’t think I can be a good or happy person without the church.

  2. I was sexually and physically abused by a member of the church from the age of 6 to 14 years. When my parents followed the counsel of church priesthood leaders and specifically Ensign articles, including Elder Scott’s ‘Healing the Scars of Abuse’1992 talk and I was forbidden to seek out professional help.

    I turned the anger inward and resorted to cutting my arms and legs, after all, Elder Scott said that part of it was my fault. I tried to kill myself several times and ended up in psychiatric care.

    I only started to ‘heal’by doing the opposite of what ‘inspired’ priesthood leadership taught – cut open the scar, allow the poison out by talking about it and allow it to heal over again.

    Submitting to patriarchal priesthood authority within the LDS ruined my life. Literally. You stole my young adulthood, helped inflict ugly scars on my arms and legs which will never go away, you stole my sanity, my dignity and my ability to feel like a child of God, and you almost cost me my life.

    I hope sometime you sit down and decide to take responsibility for the pain and suffering you have caused and continue to cause children of God, in His name.

      1. I wanted to throw up when I read;
        ” At some point in time, however, the Lord may prompt a victim to recognize a degree of responsibility for abuse. Your priesthood leader will help assess that responsibility so that if needed, it can be addressed.”
        When I was in junior high my family was struggling with some issues. The counselor who was also a bishop called me to his office to talk about these issues. To sum it up, he told me that had my family been active in “the church” and “obedient” we would not be having these issues.
        I wasn’t involved with the church again until I got married at 18. From that point on I found myself never measuring up to what the “priesthood” expected of me. Constantly feeling inadequate and guilty.
        I find it horrifying and ignorant for anyone to blame the victim of abuse. I am sorry to hear that you have been so hurt by simple minded men that think they have some “special” authority.
        Thank you for sharing your story.

  3. My story is an outlier, but it calls attention to the disparity in power like few others. This was my Ordain Women profile before they took it down.

    Hi, I’m Andrea.

    I was arrested for criminal trespassing in my own church. I was a woman. They were priesthood holders. That’s all that mattered.

    I’m a corporate attorney and a mother. I attended New York University law school and practiced in NYC and Boston. I stayed home with my three children for several years and have returned to private practice. I’ve been an active member of the Church my entire life, served a full-time mission, was married in the SLC temple, and have held a current temple recommend since 1989. My lifetime of commitment and service in the Church was invisible when juxtaposed with the ego of a new male convert holding the priesthood.

    MY STORY: A volunteer referee came unhinged during a basketball game, repeatedly screaming at our teen girls, including calling the girl with terrible acne the “red-faced” girl. She was sobbing.

    In a private conversation after the game, I criticized him. His friend, who had just arrived, demanded I leave the church. This large, unidentified man grabbed me and started “marching” me out of the building. I told him to take his hands off me. The angry referee then lunged into my face, shouting something. Out of sheer instinct, I blocked my face, making contact with his face. Our Young Men’s President and another man grabbed him before he could strike me. They held him back, his arms flailing wildly as he tried to reach me. He seemed to calm down so they let him go. He started to walk away and suddenly charged me again! Our Young Men’s President jumped between us to block his attack. They got into a brawl. The referee nearly threw him to the ground while trying to choke him. It was a sight to behold!

    The large man, I would later find out, was the Stake Athletic Director. He continued shouting at me to leave. I ignored him and returned to my seat. My son was getting ready to start his game. The referee was never asked to leave. The Stake Athletic Director was so infuriated that he called the police. He told the police he was in charge of the building. A warrant was issued for my arrest.

    The Stake Presidency refused to hear my side of the story and never asked our Young Men’s President for his account, yet they worked directly with the prosecution in the case against me.
    I was a woman. They were priesthood holders. That’s all that mattered.

    Thousands of dollars for attorneys and trial preparation, hundreds of restless hours, and a potential criminal record affecting my employment… sadly for me, equality is neither a feeling nor a reality in the Church.

    We will remain second class citizens unless, and until, women are ordained.

    1. The main witness statement came from the Young Men’s President. His recorded police interview corroborated the turn of events, placing the referee as the aggressor.

  4. There is no good place to start with this one. I can only imagine that every single woman, and likely every single man has a story of harm from patriarchy. I’ll highlight just a few things because otherwise I could be writing this all week and I only have a minute. My grandmother was abused in the name of priesthood authority, as was his second wife. My home was a home of male rule according to teachings of the prophets. My mom rarely ever stood up for herself. Nearly all my major and minor life decisions were influenced by patriarchy like what to wear, what non-career related educational goals to pursue, how to fulfill my divine role of staying at home, cooking, cleaning, and having babies. Oh how long this list is!

  5. Our former bishop at a tithing settlement years ago asked us to clear out our 401k so we could pay tithing. We had been trying for 15 years to have another child (have one daughter) and was trying to save up for a private adoption due to our LDS social worker telling us frankly that we were “too old and that our daughter was too old” and that we were likely never going to get picked (we had been with them for four and a half years and only been chosen once and it fell through).

    Aside from our jobs, we researched a money making option from a friend for eight months and after looking at everything we felt like it was a good option for us to build savings for a private adoption ($40-$50,000).

    Two months after becoming involved the economy crashed in the fall of 2007. We lost an enormous amount of money as well as any hopes for ever affording a private adoption. We went to tithing settlement in complete despair for knowing that we were likely only ever going to have one child which in the church isn’t super acceptable and because we were financially strained and didn’t know how we were going to pay tithing.

    When the bishop asked us how we were doing we burst into tears. Instead of providing us with words of encouragement he “gently” chastised us for loosing the money and told us we we be blessed if we found a way to still pay a full tithe. We both had 401k and literally drained all of the money out of both of them to pay a full tithe that year and paid all the pentalties for taking the money out early.

  6. When I was 10 my mother married my step father. I wanted my mom to marry him, he was awesome. He took me and my brother to the carnival and gave us each $10. It didn’t take much to impress me at 10. He was so kind to us but the day they got home from their honeymoon everything changed.

    He started sexually abusing me almost immediately. He watched porn with me. He only made me touch him once but it freaked me out terribly. It went on for two years. I remember asking him once why he was so nice to me in his room but so mean to me everywhere else. He was the first adult male in my life and the only way I could get him to be nice to me was to let him touch me. I honestly believe that experience affected how I saw myself and my relationship with other men for a very long time.

    I was 16 when I lost my virginity. Within a year I had slept with 6 men. I was disfellowshipped twice for it. When I was 18 I was at my bishops house alone. He asked me to go into his office. I had to then tell him every single sexual experience I had had. He wanted to know how many men, what positions, if I had orgasmed or not, etc. He explained he needed to know the extent to determine my punishment. It wasn’t until I was older that I realized that kind of information is not necessary. At my re-fellowshipment meeting one of the bishopric members repeatedly told me that sexual sin was next to murder and that it was nearly impossible to repent. He said it probably 4 or 5 times.

    Every guy I slept with confirmed what my step father showed me. I was only worth something when I was giving my body away.

    My step father died a couple years ago. He was never punished (by law or church) for what he did to me. He was a full member of the church, in good standing, with the priesthood. I had been disfellowshipped twice. I don’t think I shouldn’t have been punished. I knew what I was doing was wrong according to the church. I just balk at the fact that he didn’t get punished and he is who put me on my self-destructive path.

    After I was re-fellowshipped I was not allowed to hold a calling or asked to speak. In fact it was as if I didn’t exist. Being in the church has made me feel small. I have been punished and cast aside when I was in severe pain and reeling from the abuse I received from my step father.

    It has taken years to deal with my abuse and even now I sometimes have to deal with it all over it seems. I’m so angry about these polygamy essays because Joseph Smith reminds me of my step father. I feel ten years old again. I get so angry when someone says he wasn’t a pedophile because she was 14 and probably already had her period. Or we can’t judge him by todays standards. Or God made him do it. When really we make excuses for Joseph Smith because he’s a man, just like my step father. The church values the voices and experiences of men long before women, if they do ever value women’s experiences at all.

  7. When I was 16 years old there was a 21 year old member who was coming on to me very strong. At this point I hadn’t even passionately kissed yet, and didn’t know how to get away from his advances. I asked him to stop several times but he did not. I went to the bishop for help and he told me that I needed to repent. When I went to my parents they told me that rape is never one person’s fault, and girls who dress immodestly are partly to blame.
    Fast forward a few years and I’m 18. Made some mistakes with my then boyfriend I had been dating for a year, which made it so he could not leave On his mission. Was blamed and slut shamed because “the girls have to stop sex because they have more control.” Since I was “no longer a virgin” there was pressure from his parents to marry this boy I lost my virginity to, since no one else would want a girl who was no longer pure. Didn’t get married, thank goodness. Said boyfriend was very traditional in his views of gender roles, so he put pressure on me to quit college since “you’re just going to be a Mom and housewife anyways.” at this point I was so unhappy but I just accepted that I would probably marry him and just become a housewife because no one else would want a woman who had “lost her virtue” and traveling and pursuing a career was unrealistic because it is the job of the woman to be a mother and wife.

    Then I Finally realized I didn’t need to feel that way, and that 21 is still young enough to start over so I left. Never been happier.

  8. writing from an iPhone … So harder to articulate. I will be short … But willing to discuss further is desired.

    I married a wonderful man, who later struggled with addiction. Promises broken, emotional and mental abuse … All discussed with my Bishop. I was always encouraged to stay. Always encouraged to provide time for change. He could be high on crack in May, with midnight visits from police, ER responders, and the bishopric, 6 mos later he could baptize our child.
    It was only after 7 years I got the ok to leave. Before I did, he died tragically in a non drug related accident.

    After his death I tried to talk about how abandoned I’d felt during the last years of my husbands life. How I prayed, read, went to church and the temple … Only to live in constant emotional and mental unrest. Peace was never mine. It was suggested by a bishop that I hadn’t done it right. That I’d lacked the true faith to gain peace in those moments.

    There is no place in the church for your widows. I searched endlessly for prophet talks about wodowdom only to find I, the prior breadwinner, needed to learn to manage finances, take over the things my spouse did, and find someone to be a father figure. Advise to widowers … The same … But find a muttered. And I significantly paraphrase. Dating as a faithful mormon widow who had a temple marriage was like have the Plague. Never married men would ask if I’d break my sealing (on like the third date). Since their misunderstandings led them to believe my prior sealing would keep us from being sealed … Many a faithful men parted ways.
    I moved to utah and slowly made my way out of the church. Had made a few minor appearances in my ward. I moved in with another inactive member. I was called to a disciplinary counsel before men , most whom I didn’t know. I asked for it to be postponed because I no longer knew what believe for understood about God. Nothing fit anymore as it once had. I expressed that if they wouldn’t postpone the meeting till I knew if I even wanted to ever return, I felt I hadn’t any choice but to have my records removed. By bishop merely called to ask if I’d written the letter and he’d forward my request. My name is still not removed… But no one ever led me to believe anything other than they’d rather I leave than give me time to grow.
    My boyfriend, his friends and coworkers still encourage and invite him to return. He was never contacted my our local bishop. Never received that same letter with a hearing date.

    The don’t let the door hit you on the way out is something I’m not sure I’ll ever reconcile with the Church. Countless happy stories of blessings, aide provided, love and support will never change how alone I felt in my suffering and how degraded and silenced I felt when I questioned God’s devotion to me. It’s a wound that doesn’t really heal.

  9. There are a lot of different ways that growing up within the Mormon patriarchal culture has caused me harm. The most significant that stands out to me today was the constant reiteration of gender roles which were claimed to be prescribed by God. Though there are tasks and roles within the traditional female role that I enjoy, as a result of the Church’s teachings, I have cut off opportunities and talents to conform with this ideal. As a result of the teaching of the Church, I also did not place a great deal of emphasis on providing for myself and being able to take care of my temporal needs, which puts me as a woman in a very disadvantaged place. In a religion where we focus on self-reliance, it only makes sense to me that we would do a better job of providing those skills/ideals to individuals regardless of gender. There is a range of qualities and abilities that individuals can contribute, aside from procreation, and I wish I had not spent the first 30 years of my life so focused on that ONE and ONLY option. As I move away from subscribing towards the Church’s ideals for me as a woman, I find myself healthier and happier and closer to the path I believe God would have for me.

  10. When I was growing up in the church, the question of priesthood authority was very important inside my home. My father’s main project in life was (and still is) to fulfill the role of the patriarch. He would lead the family in family prayer and scripture study early in the morning. (He grew up on a dairy farm, so this schedule was most comfortable for him.)

    When my father was not home—e.g., during the years he served as the bishop of our ward—the obvious question was who ought to preside. We children naturally believed that our mother, as our other parent, held similar authority. We also thought that we must have heard somewhere at church, if only in the hallways, that wives somehow share in the priesthood of their husbands. Maybe this was whispered among priesthood holders, because, while my brothers and I consistently deferred to our mother or (in the absence of both parents) to the oldest sibling, both my mother and my sisters seemed to think that a male priesthood holder always presided over women.

    So my father’s presence carried with it an immediate and recognizable sense of order, but his absence threw my family into disorder: every prayer began with the careful management of conflicting ideas about who ought to preside. My mother was very insistent in her self-abasement, and so I frequently had the experience, from the age of 12 onward, of “presiding” over my mother and older sisters.

    Today, my father still insists on satisfying his drive for patriarchy. My mother has undergone significant suffering because of her desire to “sustain” him. My siblings and I have various ideas about priesthood authority. All but the most blind among us recognize that the patriarchal structure of our family has hurt our mother immensely. For this and many other reasons, I now believe in a priesthood of all believers (and non/dis/unbelievers), and I very strongly believe that LDS women should be ordained.

  11. I feel like I’m just waking up to how much harm growing up LDS and in such a deeply ingrained patriarchy has harmed me.

    I spent my youth with undiagnosed ADHD (inattentive type) which, I believed for years, caused my father to be so frustrated he had no choice but to throw objects at me while I cowered in a corner crying or pin me to a bed, press his face into mine and scream. After all, if I could just focus or behave he wouldn’t need to be so angry. And I knew he was a good man because he was a Bishop. Please don’t misunderstand, I know the abuse that happened to me is not as dramatic or as extensive as other abuses but it’s mine and it shaped me. I clearly remember my sister and I having a discussion when I was 32 years old wherein she said, “You were a kid and the same thing happened over and over. Our parents should have changed their behavior.”

    In all my life it had never once (not even close to) occurred to me that my parents were responsible for their own actions – specifically my father- and that I should have been safe simply because I was a child and that was *his* responsibility. I had been groomed to understand that he had all the power but I had all the responsibility to align my actions with his whims and preferences. After all, he was our father and the Priesthood leader of our home. I should follow in faith and not question.

    That conversation started the cracks in my sure knowledge of the order of the Universe. I could finally catch a glimpse of another way to model a life. I work every day to expand that view and break this pattern. Even with that conscious effort I still find myself doing things in my own marriage that show the effects of this upbringing. I want my husband to lead and protect in moments I feel unsure – not because I need that but simply by default. Somehow I still catch myself thinking he has some superior constitution and connection with the divine from which I should benefit.

    It’s a complicated, nuanced process this patriarchy and I could not feel more strongly that it has to be discussed and dismantled.

  12. it wasn’t until I stepped away from the church that I realized just how harmful patriarchy in the church was to me. I realize that patriarchy is virtually everywhere, but in the LDS church, it’s accelerated and exaggerated. I started noticing it as a little girl when I was denied the ability to learn about my Mother in Heaven. There are very, very few female leaders to look up to in the church and zero connection to any sort of Feminine Deity. I was stuck in a system that taught me how to be a woman from a male lens, so my “gender roles” became completely male serving and left me with little identity.

    I married young and had babies quickly. I do love my family and don’t regret the choices I’ve made. But I realize now that those choices weren’t as much mine as I thought they were. I was doing what I was supposed to do. I chose an interesting, but unmarketable major in college because I knew that I would stay home with the kids while my husband provided. The church had everything mapped out for me and I took the bait. And in reality, it has worked out from an outsider’s point of view. My husband has a stable job and I stay home with the kids. However, I have had more than one identity crisis and I’m realizing I don’t even know who I really am or how to interact with men. I’ve been told that my place in the home will bring me all the happiness in the world, but I often feel empty. My husband is supportive of me and has taken on a lot of the responsibilities around the house while I’ve gone back to school and gotten a part time job in hopes of finding myself. Once also broken the mold and discovered the Feminine Divine on my own and she has been a beautiful soul to meet. Patriarchy has made me second guess just about everything about my life. It was the driving force for me leaving the church because I didn’t want my children going through what I went through. My self esteem has been crippled and reduced to my uterus. I don’t know how to use my voice because I’ve never been given an opportunity to share it. In fact, I don’t even think I know what my voice sounds like. I’m slowly putting myself back together again, but it’s forced me to go against everything I’ve ever been taught.

  13. I remember the moment I first really saw the patriarchy at church. I was maybe 13 or 14 and was in the middle of a lesson at church about the role of apostles. As the teacher spoke about the importance of that calling, and what it meant to be a special witness of Christ, I marveled at what a blessing it would be to be that witness. I don’t know, anymore, if what my teacher intimated was true. But, the implication was that these men met and talked with the Savior. “What an honor!” I thought. And all at once I realized: that would never be me. And I get that most men aren’t going to be apostles either, but that moment I realized that it wouldn’t be me because I’m a woman. This was the moment I realized that there are a whole host of callings unaccessible to me because of my gender. I remember feeling it in my gut and my heart went cold. And whenever I tried to ask anyone about this, the answer was always that I would be a mother. “Maybe you’ll raise an apostle!” they said, as though that would be a consolation prize. As though I should be honored to be a background, supportive player in the building of God’s Kingdom on earth.

    I struggled with this for years while I tried to convince myself that I was okay with my allotted role. Especially after going through the temple, where I realized that passive, supportive role was actually meant to extend into all of eternity. I’ll never understand women who find comfort in that ceremony. What I did find comfort in was the celestial room, where I sat clothed in the same robes of the priesthood as the men. And that is what felt right to me.

    Fast forward to my involvement in Ordain Women, and the patriarchy that has plagued my testimony for as long as I can remember had a nearly palpable manifestation. Because I have been publicly asking for equality, my stake president told me that I am being insubordinate, that I am a threat to the community and then he punished me by taking away my temple recommend. The blatant display of patriarchy here has left me feeling hopeless that I will ever be really valued as a human being by the church. I’m afraid the damage this has done to my relationship with the church is irreparable. I continue to advocate for the ordination of women because I hope for something better for future generations.

  14. I was born and raised in the church and never had an issue with patriarchy growing up. I was happy as a mormon and felt special. I was taught that I was one of the chosen ones, saved for my generation. I thought I was on equal footing with men/priesthood holders in the church. That all changed when I went to the temple for my endowments the night before my wedding. In the temple endowment ceremony, the men are instructed to follow God and look to God for direction, council, and guidance. As a woman, I was instructed to follow the council of my husband. I remember sitting in the ceremony and realizing what that meant…I wasn’t good enough to follow God directly, I needed an intermediary, my husband (a priesthood holder) to commune with God for me and tell me what to do. It didn’t make sense to me why I couldn’t simply follow God himself, but I believed in the gospel and I believed the temple ceremony was from God, so I humbled myself and acknowledged for the first time that because I was a woman, I was second in God’s eyes. God talked to men 1st, women 2nd. Similar feelings occurred when I saw that all the women must cover their faces during certain parts of the ceremony (like during the true order of prayer). I saw that I was not good enough to show my face while praying in the temple, but the men were. That is what the temple endowment taught me, a temple ceremony designed by patriarchal leaders. For the next 8 years I would struggle with this in my marriage. Here I was, this independent, smart girl trying to reconcile my true self with the fact that I am supposed to yield to my husband because of his connection with God. I felt second rate. I did not feel like an equal with my spouse. I felt like it wasn’t enough for me to be a good person to get to heaven, I also needed to be a good, submissive wife (something I was horrible at). And, I needed to make sure my husband was a worthy priesthood holder, so that he could receive direction from god for me and our family. So, not only was I worries about myself being obedient, I also worries about my husband keeping the commandments (because if he was unworthy, I couldn’t get the direction from God I needed).
    I used to be so bubbly and high spirited, but the constant knowledge that my true self was not in tune with God’s idea of what women should be like slowly broke me. I felt lost and depressed and like a failure. I just didn’t fit that mold. I tried and tried but just kept failing.
    This past year I started researching church history, the deep, ugly history and discovered that these constructs that had been put upon me by my patriarchal leaders were most likely man made and not revelation from God. With that realization, a huge burden was lifted from me. I no longer had to try to be the kind of woman the patriarchy of the church wanted me to be. I can now be myself and I can talk to God just as well as any man (or priesthood holder). I am slowly reconnecting with my true self, that independent woman who doesn’t need to answer to any man. (For clarification, I love my husband and he is a good man and he has never done anything to make me feel unequal to him). It was the patriarchal temple ceremony that caused me this inner turmoil, the one I was told
    I should go and do over and over again, as often as I can, to have my face covered and be told it is my job to follow a man. That part of the ceremony is so small and may seem insignificant to some, but it had a huge impact on me and how I viewed myself and my marriage.

  15. My story of sexual abuse is easier to share than many I have heard from other women because I was able to get away. None the less it was a trajatic and life changing.

    I was in young womens and already had the crumpled rose object lesson to teach me my most precious possession in the eyes of the lord and to my future husband. My family had a large lot of land as my parents were poor but valued self sufficiency.

    One day I found myself alone in the kitchen with an elderly man who everyone called bishop, not brother. Although he was no longer bishop, I was told it was out of respect for his years of service to the ward.

    I was washing at the kitchen sink when he came and stood next time me. I turned to see what he wanted. And he quickly thrust a hand up the back of my shirt. His other went up the front of my shirt and under my bra. He pulled me in and shoved his tongue in my mouth.

    In shock I pushed him away and ran to the garden where I told my parents what happened.

    Nothing was said after that. Until a score of years later my parents were trying to convince me to return to active status. I shared with them how devastating it was to me that I was supposed to accept that God had called him as a leader over me and he had no problem destroying my most precious gift. They replied in the way I always feared. One that demonstrated my diminished value as a Mormon woman. They said he was only acting as a man. As if that both explained and excused his behavior.

    I was faced with a moral delimma. Either God had called an evil man to a position of authority or the churches claim that God called leaders was false. I decided it was not God who failed me. I was always suspect of the frantic defensiveness that the church had to be the only true church anyway.

    I watched my older sister be turned over to her returned missionary Sunday school who was 10 years older than her when she was a 16 year old high school student. My parents thought he was a worthy priesthood holder and a good opportunity for temple marriage. He had anger issues and was abusive to her and molested her. He damaged her, my Irish twin. I was so broken hearted by this I decided my best defense was to move out at 17 as soon as I graduated high school and put myself through college, since my parents wanted all the money I made to help at home to help with our large family… And I didn’t need an education. I needed to get married as soon as possible. I was considered very selfish for valuing “intelligence”. What a funny word in the Mormon culture my father would say it with disdain and disgust…” Intelligence.”

  16. It has been a long time since I have consciously thought about this, and I know as time has passed, the details have diminished. I honestly think it is my minds own survival mechanism to forget the terrible things that happened to me that I took responsibility for. As I read the previous posts I can relate so much with many of them, but articulating my own experience is a challenge. The basics are that I was sexually abused by my father, a priesthood holder from when I was 5 until 15. My older brother also tried it a couple of times, he got caught, and humiliated and reprimanded by my parents and the church. He didn’t do it anymore, he was a 13 year old boy at the time. My dad went to the bishop many times and got hand slaps, I felt very responsible for his punishment, this was partly due to his blubbering, and partly due to the pressure to forgive him from the leaders of the church. I felt as if our families eternal salvation was in my hands. This as bad as it was, was not the only damage done by the church. My constant struggle to be enough, to fit, to speak up, to be attractive, to feel worthy all stem from this and so much more. This set me up for a life of not being enough, to marry a man who had affairs, to being depressed, sad, and lonely. I fight it everyday, at times I feel like I have finally overcome, but those times are short lived. There is so much more, but honestly this is all I can write about at this time. Thanks for bringing this to light, thanks for giving it a voice.

  17. The church’s patriarchy made me less compassionate of a man, and made me cause harm to others by promoting it. I was unaware of the true reasons behind social movements, especially those related to women. Gender roles, rape victim blaming, “modest” dressing – I was victimized by the church’s teachings, and in turn turned others into victims and victimizers. I’m too embarrassed with my memories to write more.

  18. Telling all the details hurts so I will condense it. Was raped at 18 by boyfriend. He confessed in the MTC and then I received a call from my bishop that the MTC and his home bishop had told him I was involved and he “was very dissapointed in me.” Of course once he let me know he knew how dirty I was, he said it wasn’t in his jurisdiction since I was somewhere else at college so I needed to get in to my local bishop immediately or he “would tell him himself.” So I set up that meeting. That bishop said he already knew what it was about. He simply wanted to know if I had reached orgasm in the encounter. I said I didn’t know (I hadn’t and I was too naive to know it). So if you are counting, that’s at least 4 middle aged men who know about the encounter (none of which seem to care that consent was missing). I was given a letter the next week by that college bishop to outline that I couldn’t pray, couldn’t teach, and couldn’t take the sacrament. I was told to take this letter with me to each bishop if I moved or went home for summer break so they would know my standing. Not taking the sacrament was the most embarrassing for me especially when I went to stay with my grandma for the weekend during Easter. I lived in fear of being called on to give a prayer in an impromptu manner in a class. I was so scared of my shame being shown in public in the church community that I wanted to be a part of so desperately.

    A year later, a bishop declared me “forgiven” and I was so relieved that I thought the atonement was a wonderful thing! It was so nice to be a normal member and not live in that shame. My LDS life continued quite positively until 20 years later when I was facing a mental breakdown and had gotten my panic attacks controlled everywhere but church. Since this was a problem for my primary calling (I couldn’t just run out during an attack and leave the children mid sharing time) I scheduled a private visit with the bishop about this.

    My current bishop was chatty, and I’m assuming uncomfortable with the topic, but it was a gut punch when he asked if I had “fully repented” from the rape. He was speculating that my church related panic attacks and depression could be from unresolved repentance. To be fair, I used the phrase non-consensual about the encounter. I still didn’t feel allowed to use the word rape. It was after that day my husband and I found the legal definition and I realized rape is what happened and rape is what I had been shamed about for a year as a young girl.

    I have healed more from the rape than the church shaming. I will never be able to see the church as a positive in my life as a result, even though I know it can be positive for other people.

    How this relates to patriarchy? I think a woman in those meetings may have been more open to discussing consent. Also bringing up the inappropriateness of asking a rape victim if she orgasmed. Men could certainly change these behaviors too, but so far none seem to want to be educated. Being educated means admitting a need to change or that the person who could teach you has something useful to say. As long as women aren’t listened to or respected for their unique experience and knowledge this education isn’t happening.

  19. When I was seventeen, I was physically and sexually assaulted multiple times, by a non member who was best friends with my bishop’s son. It took me 6 months to get up the courage to go “confess,” to the bishop. When I told him every disgusting detail, he would ask me to clarify encounters even deeper, which was even more humiliating. By the time I finished the interview, he decided that he “knew,” this kid, and that he would never do such things to me. He said my smaller immoral sins with him led up to me being what I felt was rape, but I gave this guy I green light by allowing other thing to happen leading up to it. He told me not to take the sacrament for 7 sundays, then on the 8th sunday, to take the sacrament and report back to him to tell him if I felt the spirit again. If I didn’t feel the spirit, then I had not fully repented, and we would go from there.
    I moved away from my home state, and ended up in Provo, Utah. I had not dealt with my abuse, in fact, at the time I felt ashamed and that it was my fault, because of my encounter with the bishop. I started dating someone else, and my roommates began dating the rest of my new boyfriend’s group of friends. New “immoral,” things happened between my boyfriend and I, which he bragged about to his buddies, who were dating my roommates. Living in Provo, we had the option to attend 3 different wards. A BYU Ward, a UVU Ward, or a single adult Ward that was not considered a college Ward, but organized within a stake. I chose the smaller, stake Ward. I began to work with my bishop (who was awesome). He got me into counseling to deal with my abuse, and even wrote a letter to my former homeward bishop explaining that he had royally messed up in making me repent for being abused. He issued me a temple recommend that allowed me to do baptisms for the dead, and encouraged me to attend the temple.
    To make this story even more awesome, one of my roommates found out what had happened between me and the guy I recently dumped, and went to her bishop of the UVU Ward and confessed all my sins to him for me. She even invited me to the temple to see if I would go “unworthily,” and told this to her bishop when she went to him to confess my “sins.” (My ex boyfriend had shares details to her then boyfriend).
    The bishop of the UVU Ward, which I did not attend called me into his office, and told me the entire story of my sins. He asked if I had been going to the temple, and asked me not to do so anymore until I could repent and was worthy. I told him I was attending a different Ward, and he told me that he didn’t think that that Ward was in my boundary, and that the other bishop didn’t have the authority to “clear me of my sins,” but that that HE did.
    I was ashamed and shocked, as a man I had never met, took it upon himself to repeat to me what my roommate told him, and never even bothered to ask me to speak or give my story on the process. He told me that he would decide whether a bishop’s court was needed.
    Well I called up my actual bishop that was helping me, and told him what happened. He was furious. He called up the UVU bishop and put him in his place.
    To this day, as a 33 year old adult, I have never and will never go to a bishop to confess my “sins,” ever again. Yes there are amazing, loving, caring bishops out there. But I’ve had more experiences with the ones who just want to judge and not understand or look deeper. The “letter of the law,” seems to be much more common, vs. “spirit of the law,” bishops who truly love, care, and want to understand.
    I do not believe that anyone here on earth should be given the authority to clear you of your sins. The worthiness policing has got to stop. It’s unhealthy, and only inspires a life of fear and guilt of not being good enough.
    I continued to “stay,” in the church, because I love to help and serve others. I ended up going through the temple and getting sealed there to my wonderful husband. When my husband started to question certain things like the word of wisdom, and stopped keeping it, I was devastated. In an effort to understand how to stay in my marriage and make it work with the new dynamics, I went on a journey. On that journey to help and understand my husband, I found John Dehlin and Mormon stories. Many of the podcasts were life changing for me, and eye opening. I have always had my underlying distaste for the worthiness policing that goes on in the church, and I suddenly found… I was not alone! It’s amazing how we start a journey with someone else in mind, and end up on our own personal journeys. I now am on the same page as my husband. We are no longer orthodox mormon, but we still attend some sundays with our two children, who love primary. I’m not ready to leave completely. But no knowing where I fit anymore has been incredibly difficult. I asked to be released from my calling, and I’m still trying to figure out what to do, in regards to my children wanting to go to church, but me, no longer believing most foundational teachings of the LDS church. We live in the SLC area of Utah, and love it here. But going from TBM to non-orthodoxy in the same Ward, which is also our neighborhood, has been hard. People either pity you, or don’t know how to interact with you anymore.
    I’ve been advised to talk to my bishop about my concerns, but due to my past experiences, I refuse to ever do that again.

  20. In YW they said we were to focus on becoming mothers. Most things centered around this and it is a worthy goal… just not one I should have had so much focus and stress put upon me at the age of 12. It was also the excuse used for denying girls the same opportunities as the Young Men.

    So I watched my brothers and other Young Men have the awesome team and self building experiences of scouting.. My dad spends so many hours still with scouting, on top of church meetings. He has since I can remember.

    I, his daughter am at least as interested in being outdoors and camping as any of his scouts ever have been. But it was not for me.

    Well now I am a mother, and it’s great and all–I’m your typical Mormon in many ways…no one could accuse me of being a “militant, satan-led, Kate Kelly” (as I’ve heard her referred to as…)

    But I have realized I cannot raise my children the way I was raised and keep a good conscience. I would be happy to hear the answers to the questions Kate Kelly and others before and since have raised, even if I have been a silenced coward my whole life never daring to ask those questions openly myself before now.

    There was no reason to rob me of my childhood and potential experiences by focusing on motherhood from before the age of 12 onward. I felt the pressure to get married, the worry that I wouldn’t…and I knew it was the only true option for my divine destiny, because that’s what I was taught.

    Anything else was either an unfortunate, less than ideal circumstance or a selfish intentional choice.

    And all the lessons on how Young Women should look. Look right, for the Young Men…I was taught we were always being looked at and analyzed. That our hearts will show by the way we are dressed. That we were supposed to be oh so attractive, but also covered up because our bodies can cause evil thoughts and temptations by existing.

    I don’t think the stories of nurturing women helped my view of my mother, when she was more of a commanding type, and could be quite harsh if anything was not her way. At church she turned in to what was expected of her…her voice was high and sweet.
    At home she was master, with an iron fist… I feel if things could have allowed her more balance, our family would have benefitted greatly. She would never admit to being affected badly by patriarchy…but that is what I see.

    There is such a narrow vision of what women are in church- the youth are mostly presented with one version of what women can be. Sweet sweet kind sacrificing submissive serving sweet ladies.
    Women who support the men in their important callings. Women who bear tearful testimony of how equal they are.
    Women who do all the child care and housework and love it, or at least keep it up because it is their special sphere.

    Oh, and the selfish woman who goes after a career for worldly fame… there is her.. and the harlot. We get these caricatures mostly. Because most conference talks come from men (some great men it’s true..) women are mostly talked about. Talked about, not heard from. It makes it seem as though God truly talks to men more…I do believe this affected me as a kid who just wanted to be important too.

    I knew from a young age that it had been decided already what I was to be when I grew up. Choosing to “be” anything else would be….just in case my hypothetical future husband died or couldn’t provide anymore… or it would be a selfish worldly vain ambition distracting from my true divine calling…So I didn’t know what to “be” when I grew up. Because I was supposed to listen to the prophets and be a mother.

    Well here I am, a bunch of kids… and I feel no less responsible to provide for my children than my husband does. I feel at times stifled by days at home with small children, while my husband feels over worked with a full time+ job. But this is the “right” way? He, providing, me at home “nurturing”

    (and also getting called to nursery and sunbeams almost exclusively, and immediately in each of our wards….. I begin to doubt the heavenly inspiration of these leaders and those calls…but they think I am a naturally nurturing woman, just as women should be… and I’ll just LOVE some more hours…with other people’s children on the “day of rest”)

    If I had been encouraged instead to be all I could be, that I could in fact have a career (unselfishly, even!), as well as a family (the way men are allowed…) we would perhaps have a more balanced lifestyle and I would feel more fulfilled with life, and my husband would also have a more balanced schedule.
    I love my kids, but I think we could all benefit if Dad got to be Dad more often, and I had outside commitments and purpose more…

    Church seems to be fine with the absent father, for all the church callings that take fathers from their families in addition to their full time providing jobs.

    This is long enough already… but I feel like one of the most scary parts of this holy patriarchy for me, is the unquestioning trust my parents had and still have in this system.
    I do believe if they had been asked to give me as a 3rd wife to a 45 year old man, they would have. I feel utterly betrayed as a person to have been brought up this way.
    Polygamy itself doesn’t bother me if all parties are choosing freely to live it– but I see no evidence that God informed Emma directly about the principle. And I see no women today that God would need to reveal it to in order for the church to adopt the practice again. Or continue the eternal polygamy with multiple sealings as is already the case.

    Do we really believe God would give such a command which affected so many women’s lives…. and that God would only see it necessary to tell men about it? I want to hear from women what God tells them…if I am to believe in God, there most certainly is as much communication between women and between men with the heavens…

    But the patriarchy tells me differently.

    I needed no “Matriarchal Blessing” after all.

  21. I had a such a low paying job that my family qualified for welfare. When I did not miss work, we lost 80 cents in benefits for every $1 I earned. My wife was very ill. I would miss work to take care of her. After paying tithing, we basically lost money by having a job. The church wanted me to have a job anyway. I was not a good employee because I missed too much work. I was not a good husband because I didn’t miss enough work. We hoped my wife would get better, but she died. I regret trying to put what the church wanted above the needs of my wife.

  22. Growing up in the church in the UK, I always felt inadequate. I cannot remember one occasion, during my 26 years, when I felt on ‘equal’ terms with anyone – particularly the ‘men’ of the church.

    Much of the inadequacy I felt, was in relation to the patriarchal nature of ‘Mormonism’. From a young age, I struggled with gaining a ‘testimony’ and with having the same conviction and enthusiasm as those around me. I was constantly preoccupied with whether the church – which is patently false – was true. Now I realize it is impossible to gain a ‘testimony’ for something that is a work of fiction.

    I always felt weak in relation to the ‘strong’ men in the church. I recall having a long interview with a member of the Stake Presidency; despite his ‘positive intentions’, it was quite traumatic for me. I suppose most ‘priesthood’ interviews were.

    I left the church aged 26, after getting myself into a position where I could view facts objectively and make decisions based on how I really felt. When I decided to resign from ‘Mormonism’, largely based on my own personal research into the psychology of trauma and what makes for a ‘healthy’ individual, the feelings of inadequacy evaporated; it was as easy as that.

    The church promotes a false standard. A standard that is unattainable unless you buy into the ‘game’ and submit. It operates on a kind of ‘Rogerian’ conditions of worth model. If you don’t meet up to the patriarchal standards, it’s always your fault.

    I’m still processing and recovering from my time trapped in ‘Mormonism’. I’m still realizing that I was never the ‘problem’. My family remain in the church. We exist in two different worlds.

    I’m now disgusted with the patriarchal nature of the church and the pseudo-respect the church demonstrates towards women. Women are kept in their place in the church and many don’t even realize it.

    Additionally, I now view my being questioned in the past by ‘priesthood leaders’ about my sexual activities as both perverted and immoral. At the time, I thought it was ‘ok’.

    Always in ‘Mormonism’, I was the one with the problem. Always.

  23. I believe that the patriarchal culture of the church played a huge role in one of the most emotionally and spiritually damaging events I ever experienced.

    I didn’t know my bishop well, but I was desperate for help and hoped that he could in some way give it. I had been married for five years to a TBM man who had been consistently verbally and sexually abusing me since shortly after our marriage. I had suffered in silence for years because of a combination of embarrassment, confusion, and hope that each new promise of change would actually bring change. After five years, I realized that he was not going to change on his own, and I was desperate for help. I tried to convince my husband to see a therapist, but he refused. The only person he was willing to talk to about it was the bishop. I so desperately hoped that the bishop would be able to give us some guidance that would change the course of our marriage.

    As we sat down across from the bishop, he asked us what the trouble seemed to be. I tried to start explaining the situation, beginning with the fact that my husband was yelling at me and criticizing me a lot. Literally before I finished more than two or three sentences, the bishop stopped me. “Sister, when was the last time you were physically intimate with your husband?” A bit shocked by the interruption and the bluntness, I responded that it had been about a month, since we had been in a state of very high conflict. He looked right at me and told me that I needed to repent. I needed to make myself physically available to my husband. He told me that it was my responsibility as a wife to fulfill my husband’s sexual needs, and that I needed to repent for refusing to do that. He told me that men need sex, and that in his opinion the only reason men get married is because of sex. That I had given myself to my husband when we were married, and that since I was withholding that “intimacy” that I needed to go home and repent. He also told me that I must be yelling at my husband as well, otherwise he would not be yelling at me. (This was not true.)

    This lecture went on for about 15 minutes. After he wound up, as he was preparing to usher us out, he made some parting comments to my husband indicating that he ought to ease up a bit and be less critical of me. That was all he ever said to my husband about the matter.

    The bishop could not have done more damage to our marriage and to my emotional health if he had tried. I had spent years trying to convince my husband that I ought to have bodily autonomy, that it was not my job to have sex with him whenever he wanted it. That I had a right to say no if I wanted to. I had finally started to make some headway in this area. And the bishop’s comments completely invalidated all of the work I had been trying to do.

    One could argue that this was the rogue act of a single bad bishop, and that my husband’s attitudes of ownership towards my body were the feelings of just one disturbed man. But I feel very strongly that the church’s doctrines and attitudes about women and women’s sexuality created the environment where this sort of thing was able to take place.

    (Thankfully I am now safe and in a healthy relationship. Thank goodness that I was aware enough to completely disregard this man’s advice, and to finally make the life for myself that I deserve.)

  24. Being a Young Women’s leader in a previous ward was the best calling I ever had. It was also the most frustrating, thanks to patriarchy. The girls were very bored with homemaking activities, and begged to do the fun stuff like hiking that the young men in our ward did. Being a female leader, I couldn’t just take them on my own, even after getting their parents’ permission. The bishop always told me no, saying the girls wouldn’t have fun, and probably weren’t very good at outdoor activities. Just stick to cooking and scrapbooking.

    I also was frustrated by lessons about licked cupcakes and wilted flowers. Making sure their shoulders and knees were covered. Mothers in Zion or bust. I hated that the message these girls were getting was that in order to have good standing with God, they had to be a clean, covered virgin for their RM prince. And despite whatever goals and dreams they had, it would never top motherhood and homemaking.

    I adored these girls, and feel guilty that during an age when they are learning about who they are, I put them in their place. The patriarchy stifles their creativity, their passion, and turns their value into their appearance and ability to procreate.

  25. I personally struggled with the church for years, but attended anyway for a variety of reasons. However my husband worked side by side with the Stake Pres. for several years. Then, while serving as Elders Quorum Pres.-he asked me for a divorce after 16 years of marriage. The SP “allowed” my ex to remarry in the temple within 4 months (btw-to someone 10 years younger…)

    He callously explained to me that they both “qualified” for a temple recommend, & it would all work out in the here-after. Never mind that my H obviously had her on the side, while serving in a fairly high ward position. This of course was devastating, not only because I was so stunned & heart broken, but because it felt like the church leadership was literally applauding & cheering him on to do this. Insider dominance at it’s best here.

  26. My first husband was emotionally, verbally, sexually and financially abusive. It was getting closer and closer to being directly physically abusive. He got that way when I wasn’t the perfectly submissive house-wife that the church tells him I’ll be. I left when he wouldn’t allow me to leave the house unless I killed him. My bishop at the time is actually the one that gave me a way out. And I’ll always be grateful to him for that.

    When I was still trying to work on my marriage (I was the only one going to counseling since he refused) I was told by my couselor, an LDS bishop, that it was my fault that my marriage had gotten to this point, because I had sought help from his parents. I should have kept it just between the two of us, as a married couple.

    Because the marriage was so short-lived, I never got around to changing my name. So my legal name was still my maiden name. But on the records of the church, they automatically change it to the husband’s name. You have no choice in this. So when I transferred my records to my new ward and discovered this, I told them that wasn’t my legal name and asked them to change it back. They said there’s nothing they can do about it, since the divorce wasn’t final yet. If I wanted, I could request they add a “preferred name”. So I did. But at the top, in bold, it would have my ex-husband’s name. Underneath that it would have my preferred name. It was a source of a lot of pain seeing that name that was never legally mine and that I wanted to distance myself from as much as I could.

    Once I was ready to remarry, both my ex and I were required to write a letter to the first presidency to get our sealing cancelled so I could be sealed to my fiance. My ex was contacted multiple times and he told my bishop that he would write the letter. He never did. Because of him dragging his feet and the requirement to give him “reasonable time” to do so, we were unable to plan our wedding properly and a lot of important people weren’t able to be there.

    When my ex was getting remarried, I once again had to write a letter for him to get his sealing approval. I never understood why I had to write another letter when our sealing had already been cancelled. His bishop called me and spoke with me about the process. I answered a few questions and he was surprised by a lot of my answers. He had been told something completely different from my ex. My ex had been lying to his bishop. I related everything that had gone on in our marriage in the letter I wrote to the first presidency and the fact that he had lied to his bishop about everything. Still his sealing request was approved.

  27. Growing up in a patriarchy caused me to underestimate my self-worth and my abilities. Because the church culture undervalued my contributions and presented me with such limited life choices, I began to believe that my life accomplishments and purpose were meaningless. It wasn’t until I left the Church that I recovered from this and stopped struggling with my self-esteem.

    After graduation from high school, I had no intention of pursuing an education or career – after all, I was just going to get married and have babies. Fortunately, I encountered a mentor and had positive experiences outside of the Church that made me realize that I had the potential to excel academically. As a result, I pursued post-secondary education and a career – which I excelled at and loved. However, at every turn, it was made clear to me that the Mormon men I wanted to date as well as my church leaders, did not value or support my choice to pursue a career. At the same time, the message that my one and only duty in life was to get married and have babies was hammered into me.

    Because I was pursuing a career, Mormon men did not want to date me. I recall a conversation where my non-Mormon uncle said to me, “it sounds as if you are educating yourself out of the Mormon dating circle,” and his assessment was very apt.

    Ultimately, I felt like my life was a tragedy. I was single – and as a result, I was worthless in the Mormon world. I loved my education and it was incredibly valuable to me and I enjoyed my career, but the only thing that mattered in the eyes of the people I went to Church with was my marital status. However, my education made me ineligible to Mormon men.

    This all led me to a dark place where I questioned my value, attractiveness and purpose in life. It was awful.

    After I left the Church I was amazed to find that suddenly the fact that I had an education and career were attractive to men. I am now happily married but I worry every day about my nieces who are growing up in the Church. Patriarchy is terribly unhealthy for women and men.

  28. I’m male, and grew up an exceptionally bright, active, and believing member of the church who feels my life was harmed by the LDS patriarchy. Why? Because I have no father.

    I grew up an only child to a single mother. This is unusual in the LDS church and especially unusual in Bountiful, Utah. Sure, we lived with my grandparents, but the ward knew that I was different and they needed to make sure I was taken care of, “because I would be such a great missionary someday.” We lived with my grandfather who was a great male role model for me, but the YM leaders and bishopric always took an unwanted special interest in my mission preparation and my church activity. I needed a “father figure” or some BS like that.

    Missed scout activities or camping trips were always brought to my grandfather’s attention (who was perfectly okay with it as he was not much of an outdoorsman). It was always pointed out to me multiple times at church. I hated that. It got to the point where the harassment from a certain bishopric member was so great my mother actually felt it necessary to call his personal phone to tell him to leave me alone. He of course didn’t. He simply told her that he had the priesthood to know what was necessary.

    I decided at about 10 years old that I wouldn’t serve a mission, but didn’t let anyone know until I was 16. When I began to tell people I wasn’t going on a mission, my family accepted this, but the YM and ward leaders knew “it was obviously because my mother was not the necessary priesthood influence I needed” and they made it clear that I was their project. Without going into significant detail, the emotional trauma of that really set my entire life back a few years. I became inactive, I became depressed, I dropped out of high-school. I had no idea what my place in life was because I was not on a mission and I was told that was the only purpose of a 19 year old man.

    After I turned 21 I took a chance and went to university, gained back my confidence and sense of self-worth and am a happy, successful young adult now… no thanks to any priesthood influence. But that whole ordeal really hurt me. Why couldn’t they just let my mother be my parent? Why did they have to interfere so much?

    I still hate camping.

  29. Like many others here, I was sexually abused as a child by a priesthood holder. I didn’t receive a lot of help growing up, due to my feelings of shame and insignificance, so the guilt and auto-phobia only grew as I did.

    When I become an adult, my depression and self-loathing got to the point where I almost took my own life. My loving family intervened, and encouraged me to seek counseling with the church. The church offers funding towards therapy for abuse survivors and I could get my life-saving help there.

    There was just one problem; in order for the funding to be approved, I had to speak to the bishop.

    I had no fear that he would abuse me, I was a grown woman now after all. But it was horribly triggering to my PTSD to have to talk to a man, a man very much like my abuser, about my abuse. I had to tell him knowing that he held the power to save me or doom me forever; and I was not confident that he would believe me.

    Thankfully I got through it and got the therapy I needed, but I know that if I had had the option of going to a woman, whether it was my Relief Society President or a woman-bishop, that interview would have been much easier, and I likely would have sought the help I needed sooner. But our Relief Society President doesn’t have the authority to allocate funds, and women are forbidden from becoming bishops or holding any other leadership position.

    When I went to the clinic and mentioned my sexual trauma, they didn’t even ask me if I had a preferred gender for my therapist; they knew I wouldn’t feel comfortable with anything other than a woman. Yet, when I need to get the funding for it, I cannot ask for a woman to help me.

    Restricting leadership to men only doesn’t just hurt women who would make great leaders, it hurts those of us who need women leaders and representatives.

  30. I grew up in a very active household and felt by the time I was 18 that I had a pretty strong testimony. I hung out with mostly non-LDS people after high school because I didn’t feel like I needed or wanted all LDS friends, so I was making new ones. My new friends were “Goths,” and I was really into the music and scene. I dressed super Goth to help the son of one of my professors prove a point about judging people on their clothing, and my professor took a picture of it. When I left on my mission, I did it because I wanted to go and felt that it was the right thing. I kept that picture of me dressed up “Goth” to remember my friends and trying to help an LDS guy not much younger than me with teaching his classmates about acceptance.

    Then I got into the MTC and realized I was just a number, a nameless, faceless sales representative for the church I loved. It bothered me but I decided to stick it out. I was yelled at, chewed out for making small mistakes, and felt like I was constantly being guilted for not being good enough. I thought that feeling would go away once I was in the mission field, but it didn’t. We had zone leaders telling us that if we hit the snooze button, the First Presidency was going to send us home “dishonorably.” Or, if we weren’t in bed at the exact time. Or if we didn’t follow any of the “above and beyond” asinine rules in our mission to the exact letter. It wasn’t a “three strikes” policy they were suggesting, either, it was “if we catch you breaking the rules, even once, we’re sending you home.” It just reinforced my feelings of “this is not the church with the loving God that I grew up in.”

    Fast forward seven more months and I’m in an area with a companion who is ready to go home and doesn’t want to do anything. I try to ask my zone leaders what to do and they tell me to just set an example. I try to do that, but it doesn’t do any good. The short story is that a newer convert busted us being slackers and blamed me because I had been in the area the longest. I share some blame because I should have told this guy where to go, and I still feel horrible about how much this person was offended by our actions.

    All this happened around the same time that my district leader saw the picture of me dressed Goth and saw that we had a scented candle in our bedroom (if you’ve ever lived with two 19-21 year old men, even with good hygiene there can be a stank). The District Leader asked me what the photo was about, I explained, but he was concerned and talked to the Mission President about it. The short of it was that the Mission President had the Zone Leaders interview me and ask me if I was a devil worshiper, I explained the situation and they seemed satisfied. I found out from my sister that the Mission President had afterwards called my father, who happened to be my Stake President, and asked him if I worshiped Satan and how my pre-mission interviews had gone, to which my father replied that he hadn’t done the official interviews but his counselor said I had passed with flying colors.

    Oh, and on top of that my previous companion had some woman member old enough to be our mother that he was friends with that would get bored and call him. I’m not really the type of person to turn my companion in for breaking the rules, and I overheard their conversations. They were not flirty, mostly just catching up on news. I figured I was rid of her when he left, but she decided to stop calling me. My slacker companion told me that he wanted it to stop. I told him “that makes two of us.” He said if she called one more time and I didn’t end it, he was going to turn me in. I said if she called one more time he could feel free to tell her I didn’t want to talk. She nice, but was one of those people that its incredibly hard to get a word in edgewise when you talk to her. She called me one day, I made hand signals to my companion that I DID NOT want to talk to her, and he handed me the phone anyway. I started to tell her I couldn’t talk, but she busts in and starts going on and on, and I can’t get her to listen. I made a hand motion to my companion saying “she won’t be quiet for me to tell her,” and he just shakes his head, gets on another phone, and calls the Mission Pres. So, now I’m in trouble for “breaking a rule” I didn’t even want to break and was trying not to, which my companion was more than willing to turn me in for because that’s the Missionary culture. You turn everyone else in to make yourself look better, and hope they don’t turn you in for breaking the rules first. For the record, I did tell the member, when I could finally get a word in, that her calling me was breaking a rule and I couldn’t talk to her again. She did call me once after I got home, but that was the last time I heard from her.

    Then the Mission Pres comes out to our area for monthly interviews and interviews my companion, who of course lies and blames me for the member being offended and says its all my fault and he just wants to serve strong his last few weeks (big laugh, all that guy talked about was where we could go not do work without being caught). Of course, when my interview comes up and the MP tells me this, I respond back with exactly that – he’s lying – and the MP says I’m the one who’s obviously lying because the member blamed me and because of the concern over my photo, and because I let my mission companion’s friend call me. He goes on a tirade and keeps me there for an hour and a half, repeatedly asking me if I worship the devil, if I’m summoning spirits (with my $3 scented candle from Target), and refuses to let up.

    The follow up was that the stress of feeling like the LDS church as a missionary was not the same church I had grown up with, I was already stressed mentally, and now I had all this other stuff on top of me and a Mission President who wanted someone to punish rather than the truth of everything going on (again, I was willing to take blame for my share, but I took 100% of it instead). I had come out there for the right reasons, had done well in the MTC as far as showing I understood the material, and was now being told I was a complete failure. Of course, they weren’t going to send me home or transfer me missions, because they wanted to keep an eye on me. It was very hard to get sent home in my mission, after all. We had one missionary sleep with a female member because they wouldn’t let him go home when he asked repeatedly.

    This stress caused me to have some type of psychotic breakdown and I ended up in bed for three weeks. My slacker companion got what he wanted at least, I guess. I could barely go up a single flight of stairs or walk to the kitchen for a glass of water before I was exhausted. I went to a doctor and they couldn’t find anything wrong with me, but the physical symptoms were there. I was in a deep depression and couldn’t get out of it, I barely ate, I slept most of the time during that time, or stared blankly at the ceiling and didn’t care about anything, including my own life.

    I’ve left the church now, not because my Mission Pres offended me, but because after all my experiences and I tried to stay active, I decided I needed to figure out if I believed once and for all, and after doing the research, decided I definitely did not. My mission experiences opened up my viewpoint to the possibility, I guess. I’d like to say that I’ve forgiven my Mission President for putting me through that, but I haven’t. He’s been dead for five years now, and I still want to tell him off for being such a huge jerk about everything.

  31. As a young girl, my passion was medicine. I dreamed of my life as a doctor and would read about the cutting edge discoveries being made. I dreamed of surgery, of healing people, diagnosing different ailments, of making ground breaking discoveries.
    What does all that have to do with Church and the patriarchy? For years, all I heard was that my most important role was of wife and mother. That women were to stay home and care for the home and support their husbands. That girls should only prepare for a job in case something happened to our husbands, but otherwise shouldn’t pursue a career that would keep us away from children and home. In my teen years I began to feel like my desire to become a doctor was unrighteous, that I was betraying God with my desire for a career. After all, why would my leaders look worried everytime I spoke of my desire to have a career? Why would they ask me how I planned to nurture and raise my children if my desires were righteous?
    I decided that when the time came to have a family, that I would have to give up my career to stay home and care for my family and support my husband in his career. But I began to worry that I once I was in my career I would not be righteous enough to give it up. I thought that I was too worldly, that I would not be able to leave something I loved so much. I used to pray that I would have the strength.
    When the time came to go to college and pursue my dream, I realized that if I didn’t study a field close to medicine I wouldn’t become a doctor. If I chose a different path at the start, there would be nothing stopping me from being a wife and mother. I felt like this choice was bringing my will inline with the will of God. So I studied art, avoiding science classes so I wouldn’t be tempted.
    I know that if I had been raised as a boy in the Church, this would never have been an issue and that my dreams wouId have been supported and applauded. It was ultimately my choice not to pursue medicine, but the seeds leading me away from my dream were planted by the patriarchy.

  32. We were the exemplar Mormon family at church. Our family always sat in the front row. We read from the Book of Mormon every morning at 6:30. We prayed together both morning and night, held Family Home Evening, and my parents held high callings. Any time my father would address the congregation while bearing his testimony, people felt the spirit and were in awe of what a great man he was. Tears were shed by both my father and the congregation as they felt his strong testimony. Little did anyone know that he was a modern day Jekyll and Hyde.

    I was sexually abused by my father from the time I was around the age of four until I was eleven years old, and then a small incident when I was fourteen. During this span of time, my family went through three or four different bishops. My mother would report the sexual abuse to these men at various times, only to be told that everything had been taken care of. The biggest consequence my father ever had was that he lost his temple recommend for a month while the abuse was occurring. At one point, he received a priesthood blessing in which he was told that he was sealed up against the destroying powers of the Deceiver. Whew. Problem taken care of. Everything in that family should be A-Okay now, right? Wrong. Desperately wrong.

    My father was extremely manipulative. He was also physically and emotionally abusive. He was very good at convincing church leaders of his repentance. However, this in no way excuses the fact that these men, while I’m sure they were doing what they thought might be right at the time, allowed this abuse to continue in our home for so long. I have often wondered how different my life and my father’s life would have been if the church leadership had swiftly taken action when they first heard wind of sexual abuse. My dad might very well still be my dad and our family intact.

    Fast forward to my first year in College. I had never spoken a word about my sexual abuse to anyone, not even my own sister who also was sexually abused. One of my brother’s decided my father needed to be held accountable for his actions and demanded some justice from the Stake President. In return, my home bishop asked my sister and me to compile a “list of evidence.” My sister and I sat in the College lab typing out our lists, endeavoring not to cry and awkwardly trying to shield anyone from reading our pornographic material. We emailed our lists to the bishop, printed a copy, and burned them, hoping we had closed the book on that chapter in our lives.

    We never heard a word about it. My father continued to be in the bishopric at this time.

    Fast forward to when I met my husband. I view him as my knight in shining armor. When I opened up to him about my past, he immediately began to question why my father had received no real consequences. When my husband first approached our home Stake President, he asked him directly how a man could do everything but completely rape his daughters and not be excommunicated. The Stake President replied that excommunication is not always necessary. My husband was quite shaken by how unwilling the leadership at that time and in the past had been to take action against such an abusive man. The problem was that the entire church culture created an expectation that we should work through church authorities rather than law enforcement, even though the bishop’s handbook clearly stated at that time that sexual abuse should be reported to the legal authorities. I began to question, why did all these supposedly inspired men fail to take any real action to protect my family?

    At this time, my parents were separated, and my father was living in a different stake. When his new stake president was approached, it was astounding to see how quickly things happened. That stake president said that based on the emotional abuse my family had received alone, my father should be excommunicated. Again, a list of evidence was asked for and a disciplinary court was scheduled.

    My sister and I were asked to the disciplinary court. It was absolutely the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life. Try to picture a young woman that had been sexually abused much of her childhood. She’s fairly afraid of men in general due to obvious circumstances. Now imagine her having to walk into a room full of men. The men are all standing around the long high council table. At the head of the table sits the Stake Presidency and the young woman’s father. They sit, and then certain sensitive details are brought up for verification purposes. It was beyond awful. My sister and I sat staring at the table, chiming in to confirm or elaborate on sexual crimes against us, truly believing that our father was going to get away with his crimes once again. I have often thought how different circumstances would have been if women were allowed in these high leadership positions. There would be so much more compassion toward these sexually abused victims, and so much more retribution toward the offender…..but that’s another topic for another day.

    Surprisingly, the next week my family was told of his excommunication. Wow. Validation. What happened to us really was bad and wrong. The immense relief we felt was somewhat surprising, but truly wonderful.

    I’m sure that the reader is wondering if there was ever any legal action taken against my father. We did report it to the police. In fact, a member of our home Stake Presidency was a lieutenant in the police force at the time. When we spoke with him about the current statute of limitations (when child sexual abuse cases can be filed,) he said that as bad as he felt for us, (my twin sister and me,) he almost felt more sorry for my father because he was losing his eternal family. Ouch. Again, this inspired man truly missed the mark for us.

    Luckily, I was able to receive counseling from a wonderful therapist who counseled most of our family for free. From that counseling, I feel like I have truly forgiven my father and know the difference between forgiveness and reconciliation. I am thrilled that he’s not a part of my life, but I hope he’s happy. I am currently married to a wonderful man and lead a happy and fulfilling life outside of Mormonism.

    If anything, I hope that others reading this that are going through similar situations will understand that the belief that church authority is directly inspired in personal matters can be quite damaging. Neither the leaders themselves nor the membership should fool themselves into believing as such. These men are not given the necessary tools to equip themselves for dealing with cases of sexual abuse, and should promptly turn in the offender to the proper authorities and seek counseling for the families involved.

    I know the church is working to make this happen, but it’s not happening quickly enough. I still hear stories from time to time of how church leadership doesn’t act on cases of sexual abuse for whatever reason. It is completely wrong on any level. Just as with raising children, if they are given a consequence for ill behavior, it will make them much less likely to repeat that behavior.

    Dear church leaders,
    Nip it in the bud. It will save families a world of continued heartache and pain.

  33. I moved my senior year of high school. Upon feeling lonely and depressed I met a guy and started sleeping with him. I felt guilty and decided to confess to my bishop. He told me that God wouldn’t forgive me unless I told my parents. I was upset, I thought it was between God and me, not my parents. So I left church and didn’t go back. In college, again the guilt was eating at me. I’d broken up with that boyfriend and was ready to repent. I confessed to my bishop. Again he insisted I tell my parents. By now I was 18 and not living at home. I felt this was unfair but I did it anyway. He then told me that in order to be forgiven I must spend the next year being humbled out and broken down. He made me feel terrible about myself and the guilt just got worse and worse. At one point he made me feel so dirty, and horrible that I had a break down one day in the shower and tried to wash/tear my skin off. After 9 months he told me that I was humbled enough and could do a church court to see if I was fully repented. At the church court my entire bishopric sat in front of me as well as the ward clerk, (a guy in the ward my age) he sat and recorded everything. The bishopric all took turns asking me extremely personal questions. Such as: did you give oral sex? How many times? How many times did you have sex? Where did you have sex? Etc. I sat there, an 18 year old girl in front of 60 year old men telling them inmate details of my past sex life. I was horrified and scared but told them everything they wanted to know because I was more scared of “failing” my test and having to continue to suffer through the repentance process even longer. I later realized that these men used their position to belittle me and bully me into talking about private/personal matters.

  34. As the valedictorian of my high school I earned academic scholarships to universities around the nation. I chose a science major and had the time of my life in my undergraduate years. I took a break and decided to work for a time and enjoy not being completely broke. During this time I met and married my dear husband and I tabled my plans for graduate school while he finished his undergrad degree. I don’t regret that, but I do regret listening to all the reiterations of Presidents Benson’s and Kimball’s, Mother Come Home talks that I absorbed. When our first child was two years old I quit my excellent job to stay home full time as a mother.

    Now I believe there is nothing wrong with parents taking time away from their careers to parent, nothing at all, but I felt so coerced into it. I became depressed and struggled to find the joy in the isolation of stay-at-home parenting. It wasn’t the right path for me. I wish I had worked at least part-time and stayed connected to my field of expertise. Taking 15 years away from a STEM field means starting over, which is what I am doing now.

    A couple of years ago returned to school and am now looking for work and finding it difficult to get started again. I try not to compare myself to my peers who have had fairly uninterrupted work experience because I see what I could have done but didn’t. Counseling women to stay home with their children exclusively puts women in a precarious position. If it were necessary for me to be the sole income for our family, for whatever reason, we would be in trouble.

    I will feel more secure once I start working again and building up a retirement savings. It will take longer and I won’t be able to retire until later but I am happier. What a thrill it has been to be engaged in academic learning and career development again! Prescribing one acceptable life pathway for individuals based solely on gender is a dangerous thing. I wish church leaders would stop creating pathways we are expected to follow that don’t suit the abilities and talents God gave us. I wish I’d felt more able to forge my own path and not be shamed.

  35. As a child:

    I saw my brother’s pass and bless the sacrament on Sunday even while nursing a hangover.
    I always wanted to be the one to carry the microphone around at testimony meeting (our ward had a lot of elderly and a deacon would bring the microphone to anyone who stood up in the congregation). I always wondered why the 12 year old boys got to, but the girls, for some reason, weren’t allowed.
    My father was abusive and when we questioned him he would use his priesthood authority and commandments to “honor thy parents” against us.
    My father would hit us Sunday morning, and then bear his testimony at church. Everyone in the ward always told me what a good guy he was. He served in many leadership positions and was constantly being glorified.
    My mother was submissive, meek, and silent. Everyone told me what an angel she was. She once approached the SP about divorce and he told her not to break up the family. When I look back at her life it is one long story of submission and complete disparaging pain. I prayed every night that my parents would divorce so that I wouldn’t have to see my mother in pain and be with my father anymore.

    As a youth:

    I walked out of a YW meeting when my leader told us to always obey our parents and I brought up that sometimes our parents might be wrong and she told me that obedience was more important and that I had good parents that wouldn’t lead me astray.
    My brothers got non-stop praise, scouting awards, preisthood bestowals etc all while doing drugs. Their grades, sports, interests etc were always more important than mine. If my younger brother and I had basketball games at the same time, my Dad would attend his, and coach his. I would go alone.
    I went to the bishop to repent of immoral conduct. I had a wonderful boyfriend who protected me from depression and pain at home. We went “too far.” I didn’t even know what that meant. I just knew I felt guilty. The bishop questioned me for a very long time, asking me specific things like “was their fingering involved?” I had no idea what these terms meant and had to ask. My bishop would explain terms like heavy petting, and humping and I would look at him mortified, because no, I didn’t even know those were things- we just made out too long. It was incredibly disturbing and felt dirty to me.
    Eventually as I got older I got into more moral trouble and was constantly in and out of the bishops office. I was ashamed. Even after the bishop magically knew that God had forgiven me I still felt unclean and continued not to take the sacrament for months. I wondered why the bishop was so privy to my status with the Lord but I wasn’t.
    I was disfellowshipped for taking a Plan-B pill because I had an abortion, by my bishop’s standards (even though later, when I finally learned what sex REALLY was, I realized I was still a virgin, just a very paranoid one).
    I wouldn’t use tampons because I thought it was unclean to put something inside me.
    When all these moral dilemmas were behind me I made my mind up to be as good as possible. I went to the temple to do baptism’s once a week. I tired to feel the spirit but mostly only felt super uncomfortable, wondering if the men staring down at me could see through my wet white jumper.
    My friends (which were boys) all left on missions. I felt alone, suicidal, and worthless. I wondered if I would be able to serve a mission in the middle of my schooling. I couldn’t. It would have messed up everything I had worked up to and added years on to what it would take to get my degree.

    As an adult:

    I went through the temple endowment for the first time and hated it. I was told I didn’t understand it and that I would learn more throughout my life and to keep going. I did. I hated it more every time. I felt diminished by the wording and worthless.
    I gave myself to my husband over the alter and he received me. It was all very uncomfortable. I told myself it was bad that I hated it. I was the problem. I was the thing that needed to change.
    On our wedding night, since I was a paranoid virgin who wouldn’t use tampons or see a gynecologist before sex, (because I thought it would make me unclean) I internally ripped while trying to have sex. I knew the first time hurt, but this really hurt. When we turned the lights on it looked like someone had been murdered on the bed. There was so much blood. I was super embarrassed. I remained a virgin until 6 months after being married because I had to have surgeries on the tears. I never told anyone other than my husband because it was so uncomfortable to talk about. So, two weeks after my surgery, when I wasn’t supposed to be walking and my in-laws wanted to take us to Disneyland we went, because I didn’t want to tell them why we didn’t want to go. I was in horrible pain and bled a lot. My husband gave me piggy-backs, but I worried that I was coming off as a princess who forced my husband to carry me everywhere. It was so embarrassing.
    We had two sons. I realized pregnancy was not a spiritual gift, or if it was, it was a really sucky gift, and my private parts became a public spectacle for a few months.
    My husband is a fantastic father and realized that his role as parent is just as important as mine.
    I gave up my career so that my husband could pursue his, even though I was more career oriented and he is a much better stay-at-home parent. We thought we were doing the right thing. There was a lot of resentment on both sides. Multiple graduate degrees, tens of thousands of dollars and nearly a decade later we are finding it very hard to achieve what we want and wish we would have chosen what we wanted unhindered by gender expectations years ago.
    I realized I didn’t want my children to grow up using guilt and fear as their basis for being good moral people. I just wanted them to be good moral people and forcing obedience on them didn’t work.
    I served as the first counselor in the RS and wondered why, for our enrichment activities, it was required that I priesthood holder was in the building? Because he was male did that mean he gave us physical protection? Was I supposed to by that sexist crap even when the priesthood holder was 80 yrs old? Did the men need a RS member at priesthood meetings just in case they had a cookie craving emergency?
    I delved into church history and realized my uncomfortable feelings about polygamy were justified. It wasn’t something I had to accept. It was and is disturbing. I was, and is wrong. I also learned that women were always intended to hold the priesthood.
    I made an OW profile and instantly was told by internet strangers that I should start my own religion, that I was being led by Satan, that I was seeking attention and power, that I wasn’t following the prophet.
    I was told that I didn’t understand the gospel, that I didn’t really believe it, and that I should leave.
    I realized that I didn’t, and that I should. I realized I’d been spiritually abused, misrepresented, felt guilty scared and ashamed and been held in low regard my entire life. I stepped away and I feel so much better now.

  36. I was sexually abused at a very young age. I had always been taught that purity and modesty were the most important things for a girl to have. I had immense guilt and felt that no one would ever want me because I was no longer pure. I began to be promiscuous and hated myself. As a teenager I began drinking and slipping into a deep depression from all the guilt of my sexual sins, abuse included. I viewed the abuse as my fault. That I must have done something horribly wrong for this to have happened.

    I surrounded myself with guys who used me and treated me like the trash I thought I was. When I finally had the courage to tell my bishop what had happened, I was questioned as if it had all been my idea, and did I masturbate on top of everything else. No sympathy or empathy for the abuse. No attempt to council me as a victim. It was so horribly humiliating and I felt so alone.

    When I met my husband and I finally told him what had happened to me as a child and what I did as a result, his Mormon patriarchal upbringing came out and I felt further blamed. I admit, it is hard to this day to move past this. Even though I have now left the church and my husband has left as well. Even though we are mostly free of all of it, some things still live within us and are hard to shake. Shame and guilt is one of them.

    As a parent and adult, I am appalled about how I was taught that I was responsible for boy’s thoughts by the way I dressed. I am appalled that I was taught that purity was the most important thing, so much so, that I hated myself for being sexually abused. I am appalled that I was required to confess these painful experiences to a male behind closed doors in order to be forgiven for my “sins”. I am appalled that instead of healing and counseling, I got more guilt laid upon my by my leaders.

    I am so glad that my children will be free from this abuse. That my daughters will know their worth. That they will know that they can be anything they want to be. That they are not confined into a mold that consists of wife and mother. That they will never know the shame I did.

  37. The summer between my freshman year and sophomore year at BYU, I met a guy who was four years older than me, This return missionary swept me off my feet, and within two months of knowing each other we got engaged. That fall semester we took a marriage class together. Shortly after getting engaged, I realized my betrothed had a temper. I had confessed our relationship was moving really fast and I thought we needed more time. He started punching the brick wall outside his apartment until his fist bled. He then ripped my keys out of my hand (causing my hand to bleed) and blocked the doorway so I couldn’t leave. As an inexperienced 19 year old, I didn’t know what to do. That same week I asked to speak to my marriage prep professor, and told him of my concerns. He told me if we were both LDS—we would be happy! After all, this man was a returned missionary and we both wanted to get married in the temple!

    This was the beginning of a very long and emotional two year abusive relationship. Things eventually escalated to the point I would get bruises and the police became involved. I met with bishops often, and not once was I told to get out of the relationship from an ecclesiastical leader. I was actually told to work through our issues so we could have a temple marriage.

    Looking back on that experience, it seems like a lifetime ago. I often wonder– why my parents didn’t object to me becoming engaged to a guy I had only known for a couple of months? Why weren’t ecclesiastical leaders advising me to get the hell out of that relationship? I can’t say for sure if that advice from the college professor or my bishops hindered my leaving the relationship earlier, but I know it didn’t help.

  38. As a child I was considered to be oppostional and defient. I was always pushing back at Patriarchy, at home and at church. My father would always reiterate to us that he was the Patriarch of our family and what he says goes. I would always do the opposite. Now I know that what I was doing wasn’t opposition, it was feminism. I would/will only push back when men would/ do try to Lord over me. Otherwise I was a very obedient child. I tried to do anything that would make my parents proud, with very little success. I went tio church evert week, read my scriptures, sang in choirs, graduated from seminary. Nothing I was ever going to do was going to please them because, for whatever reason, it just wasn’t. This goes on to this very day! Our relationship is very superficial to keep peace and because I don’t think they are capable of deeper affection, for their own reasons of abusive patriarchy in their own lives. Lots of things had set the stage for what was the ultimate misuse of family patriarchy. I’ll give you the readers digest version.
    I was molested by my brother when I was young. This event set things in place for years of self abuse, mentally and physically. He was praised for his priesthood callings, scouting awards, mission, temple marriage, 6 kids, EQ pres.and now a bishop, while I was just the fat girl that was only given a handful of praise in her life, married outside the temple (even though later we were sealed in the temple) to a non missionary (and inactive mormon)and was only able to have 2 kids, never any callings outside of Primary. So, I spent a childhood and part of a young adulthood feeling worthless. My teens were years of almost non existence. But when I went away to college, life was going to be different for me. I was a person that mattered to others, even on small scale ,but I mattered none the less. I started to heal and move forward. Then I met a return missionary with big dreams, full of hope and tons of personality. I fell head over heals and became obsessed with being with him. He would always say to me if you would do this or could be this or that, then I would marry you. So, needing that approval, I did it all. We were intimate, as you might expect, only in complete secrecy. The rest of the time, we were “just friends”. This brought out some major psychosis in me and I am grateful to this day that I didn’t do anything harmful. When I became pregnant, he of course, said it couldn’t be his, I must be a slut that was unfaithful to him. I needed to give the baby up for adoption because a child deserves to have two parents and he wasn’t going to marry me because I wasn’t what he wanted. So, I made my next big mistake. I left school and moved home only to be further torchered by my father who called me a whore, said he would now have to be a father figure to a bastard child, and provide for the child because I never could. They encouraged me to go to my bishop and repent, which after, I realized they may have also asked the bishop to encourage me to put my child up for adoption. The women in our ward were after me like a prize winning trophy buck- a single mom that might potentially adopt out her child was like a drug for them that they needed their fix. To appeal to my parents better side, I went, only to have the most damaging thing in my life said to me. He told me that no worthy young man that would take me to the temple and commit to me for time and all eternity, would ever want someone who has been tainted and was carrying the evidence of my sin on my hip. It would be best if I put the child up for adoption and never speak of it again in order to “catch” a worthy man. I think I actually stopped breathing in awe and disbelief. Did he just say that? For the first time in my life, I had been beaten down so badly, that I didn’t push back against male authority. I went home and planned out how (after I put my baby up for adoption) I would kill myself. I had all the details set out and planned to do it. What changed me was the person inside me. My baby (girl) saved me. When I saw her ultrasound, when I felt her kick and heard her heartbeat, I woke up! I pushed back! I didn’t give into the tauntings, I didn’t devalue my life, I didn’t give her up. I pushed forward. And guess what? I married an incredible man who loves me beyond measure and has loved (and adopted) my daughter like she was always his own child. We had one more child together then were never able to have more. God gave me grace and love in the form a beautiful baby girl, an unconditinal loving husband who stood by me all this time through craziness and emotional pain, even when I was going to give up on him for leaving the church…crazy huh? He has NEVER made me push back! So, I say horse crap to Patriarchs and priesthood. I don’t need anyone but my creator in this life. I’m just as important in the web of life as any other person is. I don’t need to have worthiness for love. It’s there for my taking and giving just as sure as the sun shines. I hope my daughter never knows the clutches of male priesthood authority and lives her dreams to the fullest in her life. I find myself pushing back against the male authority for her sake all the time. ( we can’t seem to get away from it here in Utah) And for my son, I hope his dreams all come true too! I know that the clutches of the “priesthood” are equally as damaging for boys, it’s just not talked about. I put “priesthood” in parenthesis because I don’t believe anymore in the Mormon “priesthood”..I think it was set in place by an evil man with evil purposes to oppress and destroy the human soul. And it did for a little girl, and a women for a time, but never again will it have anything to do with the women in my lineage. I broke that binding so that my daughter could spend her life knowing that she matters! And so her daughter could know that she matters, and so my son’s daughter can know that she matters. Never again!

    On a side note. I still support OW , not because I believe in the Mormon priesthood, but because they do and want equality in it. Maybe my experiences might have been different if the mentality of the church was different. Not just women holding the priesthood, but self confident & compassionate women having conversations with young women like me. What a difference that would have made in my life. Good luck to all who dare to push back!!

  39. As a young boy, (age 5 – 10,) I was sexually abused by a member of my bishopric, at church, on Sunday’s. He would tell me how unworthy I was, and that if anyone ever found out what I had done I would never be able to get baptized, that my parents would be so disappointed of my sinful ways, that I wouldn’t be able to serve a mission, or be an Eagle Scout, and that sexual sin was next to murder in God’s eyes, along with many other devastating threats. So I never talked about this until I was older and had kids of my own, trying to consider if I wanted my children to grow up in this church.

    It’s taken years for me to put all the pieces of my life together, and understand how deeply this has affected my life, and my feelings for the church. I’ve struggled my entire life with activity, and belief in the church. I’ve been an angry and distrusting person. This abuse took my identity away from me. I was so young when this started, that I don’t know who I was before it started, or who I would’ve been without it.

    I have never felt safe, worthy, or accepted in the church. I’ve always held a deep mistrust for the priesthood. Nearly 25 years later, I brought this to a bishop’s attention. He told me the “burden of this was on me… to forgive this man, the church, and the priesthood.”

    The purpitrator is now dead. He was beloved in our area. He had served in scouts, bishoprics, as high priest group leader, and in stake presidencies from his 20’s, until the day he died, (in good standing with the church,) protected and preserved by the priesthood.

    I’ve sought counseling the last few years. I’ve found peace. I’m finally completely rid of the shame and guilt of this abuse. I still have anxiety and panic attacks from time to time when I go into an LDS church. Things are getting better, though. I no longer seek out any lay, unqualified council from the church or priesthood, but from professional, qualified, therapists who desire my welfare over protecting the church and its priesthood.

    I’ve never shared this in detail with anyone, but my wife, and therapist. This is hard to put to words, and scary to share. I often wonder how many others have been through this as well? Or what can be done to prevent this from happening to others?

  40. As a young woman (15) I met a boy at a party. We dated and it was pretty simple “young love”. This young man turned out being a missionary, who was breaking lots of rules. When he got caught, it was me (the 15 year old) they blamed for ensnaring this ADULT in sin. I was deceived, heartbroken, and blamed for it, all the while he got a pat on the back.

    Had I known then what I know now, I am pretty sure this man should have gone to jail.

  41. I dated multiple men (all RMs)as a YSA (18-21) who made countless remarks about how they wanted their wife to be a stay at home mother and didn’t understand why I was bending over backwards to put myself through school to obtain my Bachelors degree. They didn’t see the point because if we were to ever get married, I would be home with our children any way. Thank God I ended up marrying a man who supports my ambitions and has been my cheerleader through my undergrad, graduate school, and motherhood. I feel insanely lucky that the two of us experienced a faith crisis together and have been each others rock through a very hard, emotional experience that has lasted almost five years now.

    The biggest affect the patriarchy has had on me, and which ultimately started my faith crisis, was a “new ward member” interview I experienced as a freshman in college in my first YSA ward in SLC. After asking a few questions to “get to know me”, this bishop asked if there were any sins I felt I needed to confess. I really had nothing but felt that he coerced information out of me that ended up turning into something very fabricated. It was almost as if he wanted me to confess something that never even happened. As any young, naive, slut shamed mormon girl would do, I told him how I had made out with my boyfriend in bed (clothes ON, no inappropriate touching) totally normal behavior in my eyes. He then proceeded to ask me if I had ever orgasmed, ever masturbated, ever touched a man inappropriately, ever watched porn etc. He then told me that I couldn’t take the sacrament for three weeks due to “light petting”. I felt extremely uncomfortable, obviously. I went in to this meeting thinking that I would be extended a calling and came out with a ridiculous and totally unwarranted punishment that some disgusting horny old man took advantage of me, a teenager, for his own pleasure. I lost all my faith in “inspired” leadership shortly after this experience. The leadership roulette really pushed me over the edge. The fact that young, naive girls and women are expected to share their deepest most personal and private experiences with old men that they barely know is so wildly disgusting to me. It makes me sick to my stomach thinking that what happened to me could happen to my daughter. The worst part about all of this is that I thought it was totally normal at the time and I felt so guilty and wrote in my journal about how much I was praying to be forgiven of my “sin” a sin that never even happened or should have never been considered a sin any way. I was taught my whole life to listen to your priesthood leadership and do what they say without question.

    I realize this experience is pretty mild in comparison to the other comments on this thread. However, I feel like it’s important to acknowledge the potential for abuse when young girls and women are alone in an office with an old man who carries authority. How this is still allowed in this day and age is beyond me. It sickening to me that parents (mine included) encourage their teenagers to confess sexual sins to a man who they have no relation to, who has no training in any type of psychological care and who may have an agenda. Now that I have a child, I would much rather her discuss these issues with me so that I can help her and give her advice that I feel is appropriate. I would think this is pretty normal but clearly, in mormonism, it is not.

  42. I was sexually and physically abused by my brother from when I was around 7 to 10 years old. The church leaders only pushed me away and protected my brother who kept on abusing me. They just couldn’t believe that my “faithful” and “trustworthy” brother could be capable of such things. They scolded me for crying out for help and told me I was a brat for telling such lies. Even to this day my faith in the church has never been strong because of these deep wounds that haven’t been able to heal. Even years later I have the same problem. My branch president didn’t even want to file a statement of discipline for me and told me to let it go because it happened so many years ago. So it was me going to my brother’s current bishop alone and he only ignored me. My brother currently serves in the stake presidency and holds a temple recommend. Me, inactive. I will never understand how ignorant people can be.

  43. This is the letter I wrote to John Dehlin on Sun 11 January. “Hi John. I don’t have much to offer as I am on my way out. Lifelong member, 60 y/o. Long term marriage to abusive (sexual assault – using temple sealing ceremony as rationalization since I “gave” myself to him). Divorce, best decision I EVER made. Marriage to NOMO delightful respectful man. In same ward (rural Colorado) with X, who married in temple. MAJOR shunning by ward members – X is white/good – I am black/bad, etc. Add to that my growing awareness that for me the church is a “Motherless” house, polygamy; history lies, lies about so many things. We didn;t use BC solely because of info in handbook. I had 6 kids in 7.5 years then 3 more. Last one at age 43 and X wanted me to have more? Final straw for me as to our marriage. I found FMH abt. ten years ago – a lifesaver, Found MSP about 6 yrs. ago – major blessing to me as I navigated my transition. I’m 4th gen LDS so leaving hard but my parents aren’t alive, only one bro. is active – we’re not close. Six of my kids have left, various reasons. Anyway – I would be HAPPY to help any sister who has been thru what I have – being raped over many years by a “righteous” p-hood holder. Truly horrific…has taken my MANY years of deep therapy, having a kind respectful understanding spouse and removing myself from church. I had flashbacks and triggers from just being in the building, much less seeing X and new wife! I had my sealing cancelled, another story. Ward members were NEVER helpful. They never knew about the abuse because X and I were told to not talk about it. I had zero support, understanding, compassion. We were both high profile leadership in our ward. I felt so betrayed that the decades of service I gave meant nothing when I married a NOMO and became less active to save my sanity. Bottom line, I no longer believe. I;m happier and healthier. MSP gave me such light and truth John, always I could depend on the truth from you. So again, all I really have to offer is a firm and deep belief in our Mother, the Divine Feminine and a desire to listen/help other women who experienced marital rape from an LDS spouse. I think there are more older LDS women like me who have been thru similar experiences. It took a GREAT deal of courage for me to leave my temple marriage, agst counsel from male leaders, who just didn’t get it. I no longer am looking for any religion/church and NEVER want to listen to a MAN telling what I should or shouldn’t do. MSP presents so many uplifting stories. That’s what I like the most, hearing people’s stories. Thanks for ALL you do John.
    PS – I am convinced, from listening to some of my female friends over the years, that marital rape is a well-kept secret in the church. Paul’s counsel in the NT, polygamy, temple sealing ceremony and male leaders simply not understanding what RAPE is. I was counseled by several leaders, when I did get up my courage to say “my husband forces me to have sex” that he had “needs” that i needed to meet. I was so bewildered, hurt, confused, convinced the fault was mine, which X proved by telling me I was defective. SO many terrible experiences over the years. We never talk about this in RS or PH. Since our leaders are all male, there’s not much recourse for women at all. It would take hours to tell you my experiences, starting from when we were at BYU in the 70s. I had three children under the age of 2.5 when he first raped me…..gut-wrenching. For years, I had no words for what had happened. This was the time frame of strictly no BC too, so it was awful for me. Sex = rape/pregnancy… Anyway – not going there anymore today. I just want you to know there are probably many older women who have experienced what I have and we usually keep quiet.” end of letter to John.
    My story is much much longer, with facts that would curl your toes. Mormon patriarchy damaged me so deeply that for a while I felt like giving up. suicidal – before I finally spoke up and Law Enforcement arrested my X, and he was a cop! I was amazed that anyone believed me. X used to tell me “I’m a cop and a p-hood leader. Who are you? A fat, ignorant woman that no one will ever believe or want.”Powerful words that became words that I proved him wrong about. I was astounded that DV laws gave me the ability to speak, to be heard and believed, and eventually when I filed for divorce, I got the house (only worth 60K) and child support and spouse maintenance (stopped when I remarried which was Ok, I had two Assoc.Degrees by then). I garnished X’s wages to get my $$$ and he always paid to keep his TR. To this day, maybe 2-3 people in the ward know why we divorced, as we/I were told not to talk about it. I’m in the process of leaving the church, done with triggers, flashbacks and anxiety. 4th generation but I believe my ancestors know the truth so I don’t worry about it.My kids are supportive; 3 have left church, 3 no longer attend, 1 sort of active, 2 are active.My biggest blessing had come from my NOMO DH who is the kindest happiest person I have ever known. His love and understanding and support has helped me heal 1000 times more than anyone in the church. May Mother and Father bless you John, and each of you have have been harmed and betrayed by the church/patriarchy.

  44. I will share the letter I sent to the general authorities.

    Dear General Authority,

    I am writing this truly with a broken heart and contrite spirit. My humility and desperate pride have collided and I am left scraping at the bottom of the proverbial barrel. My faith in my Father and my Savior are strong, but I am shaken to the core by the loss of faith in my leaders, and I am desperate for some tangible help.

    I am a 28 year old daughter of God, sealed to my husband for seven years, preparing to welcome our fourth child later this fall. I have my Master’s degree in clinical social work with a passion for advocacy and psychotherapy, and am currently using those skills to try to rear passionate, strong children with testimonies of their Savior and of their relationship with Him. Back in the day, I served as Institute President, which was a calling I think came partly because I attended often enough to graduate Institute twice. I share with you both my secular schooling and my religious education out of anxiety that I will be dismissed for my experiences. My prayer is that you can feel who I am as you read my words.

    This immense trial began in my courtship with my husband. I did everything by the book: since my baptism at 18, I was attending church every Sunday, serving in my callings with all of my heart, striving to be as temple worthy as I possibly could, with plans of marrying a righteous returned missionary. My then-boyfriend, now husband, seemed to fit everything I was looking for. His family was full of active members, came from pioneer stock, and he was a returned missionary with a strong testimony. What I did not understand was that he was wrestling with a pornography addiction, and the escalation of that addiction resulted in him sexually assaulting me after a date. He immediately felt immense guilt and shame, and contacted his bishop to confess. Through tears, he told his bishop what had happened. When I arrived home after the thirty-minute drive home after the incident, broken and confused as to what had happened, I found an email from my then-boyfriend, telling me his bishop had advised him to either break up with me or marry me. My then-boyfriend had committed a crime, and his bishop saw it as in issue pertaining only to keeping the commandment of chastity. I didn’t recognize the potential legal severity of it then, and honestly, I loved this man who had completely violated me. Everything else on paper seemed perfect. So when a leader we both trusted, acting as a judge in Israel, minimized the assault to a bullet point in the For The Strength of Youth, I ignored my pain and continued with the relationship, which resulted in marriage a few months later.

    Fast forward to three years ago, when I discovered the pornography addiction that was fueling all of it. The betrayal included the acute pain of coming across these images my husband was having a sexual relationship with, as well as knowing our entire relationship was fake. He had lied to me about everything, and I felt shattered. The shame of the entire situation left me unable to reach out to anyone with the exception of our bishop. I sat before my bishop, raw and spiritually bleeding, and while I exposed all of my vulnerable wounds, I had no idea I was starting down the path of being completely ignored. There were no follow-ups scheduled with my husband, and the only time my bishop checked in with me was when I scheduled time for him to do so. In those meetings, after months of continued lying and betrayal from my husband who was not seeking recovery from his addiction, I told my bishop that I was at the end of my rope. That in spite of being pregnant with my third child, I had just accepted employment that would allow me to provide for myself and my children, because I wasn’t convinced my marriage would make it. I still loved my husband dearly, but the love could no longer match the pain that I was in constantly. I could no longer serve in my calling, and I was isolated for fear of judgment from anyone around me. My bishop was the only one I thought I could reach out to, and it was as if I was talking to a wall.

    On top of it all, my husband finally asked the bishop for help with counseling, as he was not improving and I was ready to leave. The bishop referred my husband to a member of the temple presidency, who also has a PhD in psychology. During one of the few sessions they had together, my husband complained to the psychologist that we were not having sex as often due to my trauma. The psychologist advised my husband to continue to escalate physically with me even after I have asked him to stop because “women take more stimulation to achieve arousal.” Even when I have said no, my husband was told by a church leader to keep going. He was advising my husband to ignore my denial of consent and assault me.

    I kept trying, General Authority. I studied my scriptures. I said my prayers. I felt so close to my Heavenly Father, and felt sustained enough to keep going. I was called as Gospel Doctrine instructor, and was excited to use my education and my love of the gospel to serve those in my ward. Several months into teaching, the lesson of David and Bathsheba came up, and I took this as an opportunity to address pornography addiction. In the few times I felt safe sharing my experience with my husband’s addiction, I discovered how pervasive it was in my ward, discovering that both of my home teachers are experiencing addiction without seeking recovery. After reaching out to online communities for LDS women experiencing pornography addiction in their marriage, I discovered how pervasive it was across the country. However, the moment I uttered the words “pornography” in the lesson, people became upset. Elders and High Priests actually stood up and literally yelled at me, angered I had strayed from the story of David and demanded that I discuss the gospel. I felt unsafe, I felt attacked. It was after this lesson that my bishop reached out to me for the first time in three years, inviting me to meet with him. Instead of offering a place of support, however, my bishop chastised me for straying from the story of David. When I told him I felt uncertain I could return to the ward after having been yelled at by those men during my lesson, my bishop responded by telling me that he “could physically make [me]” come to my ward if he wanted.

    I know from what I have learned as a member of the church what a blessing it is to have a body. Because of my body, I can learn and grow and have the opportunity to live with my family forever. It took a really long time to appreciate my body as a vessel for all the good I can do in the world, having battled eating disorders for much of my adolescence. Why is it, then, that my local leaders are communicating, at best, that what happens to my body doesn’t matter, and at worst, that others are entitled to do as they please with it? That to violate my bodily autonomy is only a sin if done outside of the marital covenant? I’m a social worker with a graduate degree. I have offered my bishop resources after resource after resource to learn more about how addiction works, and the impact it has on the spouse, and it has been ignored. In reaching out to other women in similar situations, I have found that they have experienced much of the same with their local leadership.

    My heart is broken. I feel like the bush in the metaphor that has been cut down to a little wooden nub, and I’m desperate for someone to water what is left of me. I know with all of my heart that the everlasting water comes from my Savior, and if I partake I will never thirst again. But my safety and integrity have not been of concern to my leaders, and I feel lately as if they are knocking my cup out of my hands. Through the seeming relentless admonition that I don’t matter, my experiences don’t count, that my pain is of no consequence, I have become a shell of the vibrant, social, service oriented individual I once was. I’m desperate to know that one of my Heavenly Father’s servants actually cares. Please. In all of your busy-ness, in all of the many things you are doing, if you can, spare me something tangible. I know my Heavenly Father treasures His daughters, that our worth exceeds rubies. Why does it feel, when it comes to pornography addiction and sexual assault, that my leaders feel differently?

    At best, I sustain my Father in Heaven as He sustains me. At worst, He sustains me even as I ignore him. For the past seven and a half years, I have felt that I have been sustaining my leaders while they do not sustain me. It has exhausted me to the point of feeling as if I cannot continue.

    Please help. Please help the broken hearted sisters in Zion. We are losing steam.

    With great sincerity,

    (Signature)

    — The response I got was to meet with my Stake President, who told me that I needed to go to the temple.

    I will not be returning to church.

  45. I believe I have been harmed by the patriarchy in the LDS church in many ways, both as a child and as an adult. One of the most prominent examples occurred during my studies at BYU. As long as I remember, I had wanted to be an archaeologist. I studied for it beginning at a young age. One of my earliest memories is of visiting the BYU Arboretum with my mom at age four and seeing the rock with the petroglyphs on display there. I thought I had discovered something amazing, and pestered her to call a museum so this treasure could be preserved.

    Fourteen years later, few in my ward thought much of my attempt to get accepted to BYU, including myself. I was absentminded, I had mediocre grades, poor social skills, and I just didn’t seem that smart. When I was accepted, it changed the way I thought of myself in an instant. Here was proof of my worth in writing, for myself and all the world to see! I was going to be an Archaeologist. I already knew my specialty: I would study Mesoamerica, the land of the Book of Mormon, and help the Church with my work. You see, I’d heard the lessons in Young Women about how getting married and having children was the most important thing I could do on this earth. I’d heard it when they told me that I should get an education and prepare for a career “just in case,” but that stay-at-home motherhood was the most righteous thing to do (a lesson that always made divorced working mother feel terrible). But I just couldn’t see myself getting married. I couldn’t see anyone wanting to marry me. I couldn’t see myself not studying, not working towards a new goal and striving to improve the world using my mind. I told myself, sure, of course I’ll try to get married, and maybe that will happen someday, but surely I’ll have years to be an archaeologist first.

    My first archaeology professor was a woman. That felt great. I felt like I was looking at a possible future version of myself, though truthfully I couldn’t see myself staying inside to teach. I wanted to get out and dig things! My first weeks at BYU had been full of pep talk about how we were the best, the most righteous, the most willing, the cream of the crop who could change the world. We were the most obedient. Otherwise we wouldn’t have been chosen to fill those coveted seats. So when my professor took a minute to address the women of the class with a special message, I listened. She told us that of course we should finish our degree–just in case–and that there would be plenty of time to be archaeologists once our children were grown, but that archaeology was no place for a mother. She told us of the gravestones she’d seen in distant places without proper sanitation or stable governments–gravestones of the tiny children whose parents had thought that archaeology could be a family adventure. And could a good mother entertain the idea of long work absences from her home as she left family safe behind to go tramp around the jungle for months at a time? The thought was unthinkable, in this place where marriage and children and proper roles were so important that they worked their way into every classroom and dominated the lessons Sundays.

    I made my decision right there, and I told the professor after class. I would finish my degree, of course, but I would not be an archaeologist until my children were older.

    Plenty of women manage to get good degrees at BYU with this mindset. But I had been absolutely driven by ambition ever since I could remember. I enrolled in a class to learn the Mayan language, which is extremely difficult and wasn’t even completely translated at the time. I talked to my professors about learning Nahuatl in private lessons with the one faculty member who spoke it. I noticed my talent for observing the small details necessary for working with human bones, for putting together the puzzles. I could not quell my ambition and it clashed increasingly with what I heard every week about my real mission in life: to get married and have children.

    My grades slipped. And then they crashed. To be fair, I was also dealing with depression, anxiety, and probably ADHD. But the fire that had kept me moving through all that during my first year at BYU had gone out. I saw my ambition as being directly opposed to the will of God, and since I could not control it, I would remove the temptation. I decided to switch majors. I chose Theatre with a specialization in makeup, as I had been volunteering as a model in a friend’s class, and found the creative work exciting. I remember thumbing through her textbook, making my decision, thinking, “Here is something I will enjoy, that I know I will never have a career in. It is the right thing to get me through to graduation.” While I enjoyed being involved in Theatre, I knew it would never tempt me away from a family. It offered even less chance of a paycheck than archaeology, and it could easily be stashed away for a few decades while I raised my children.

    As it turns out, I did find someone who wanted to marry me; a man who won me over through his gentle persistence and his insistence that he loved my heart and my mind far more than he loved my body and my face. Now our family lives in an area where our $2800/month rent is considered a steal, and I don’t qualify for any job that would pay for quality care for my children with enough left over to help out with our bills. As it turns out, switching to Theatre changed me for the better in ways I hadn’t imagined. It taught me how to synthesize information, to think critically, and to ask questions in a way I may never have encountered in the Anthropology department. In this way, I can’t regret the change I made. I still could have pursued a viable career within Theatre, as a teacher or any number of other options, if I had made up my mind to. It was my determination to remove that option in order to ensure my future “most righteous, most important” path that led me to my current place. Even if I had graduated with marketable skills, it turns out that the “get a degree just in case” leaves you with a resume gap and an outdated skill set after years without any work, possibly making you unqualified for work in your field. And those are just the practical consequences of restricting your skill set in the name of motherhood. Possibly worse were the years I struggled with the feeling of trying to kill the most living parts of myself so I could replace them with cold forms more clearly sculpted to look like someone else’s ideal of Mother.

    Before I was even old enough to get my period, they were telling me to be a mother. But being a mother means caring for your children. It’s that simple. Mothers can earn food and shelter and a stable future for their children and be just as good as mothers who leave that to their husbands. Good mothers and wives can contribute financially so that husbands are not crushed under the responsibility of doing it all themselves, because fathers, too, vary in their needs and abilities and desires. Good mothers can be like my mother and not even see their children most of the day because they are earning food and clothes for them instead. In fact, that is how the majority of the world *has* to function. Thanks to my education in patriarchy, I entered motherhood completely unaware and unprepared for that, and my family is reaping the consequences. They reaped the consequences for years while I tried to beat myself into the mold the church had given me, the stress of my perceived failure interfering with my ability to parent in the most ironic and devastating ways. Now, my husband and I hope to raise our girls without these harmful ideals.

  46. Though I’m hoping a great deal has changed in the intervening years (I’ve since had a good experience speaking with a bishop about getting down, handjob style, with my fiance in which my bishop went through the motions of disciplining me but was pretty understanding of the whole thing considering I was a single woman of 35 years old. That’s a helluva long time to wait to have sex). 🙂

    But I digress.

    When I was 12, some things my dad wrote in a journal that had to do with his own childhood abuse and fear that he would continue the cycle of abuse in his family were discovered by my brother and led my mother to worry that I had possibly been molested by him. (They had divorced a year earlier for unrelated reasons).

    Anyway, she arranged for me to meet with the bishop who asked me about it. Nothing had happened so I was pretty confused. Then he said something that stuck with me for more than a decade. I was already a very well endowed young woman at age 12 and the bishop suggested I not hug my dad without a bra on and also make sure that there was no way he could watch me undressing in the bathroom when I was at his home. I was horrified. I could tell this man was trying to help me in his weird way, but those couple sentences set me back in terms of my trust of men quite a bit. I don’t really see how it could ever be appropriate to tell a young girl to wear a bra when hugging her own dad (who had never treated her improperly at all). Even though I thankfully wasn’t a victim of molestation, I was being blamed for doing something very innocent that might cause me to turn my own father on. Talk about screwed up. I’m still a member of the church, though I married an amazing non-member fella, so I think my ward sees me as a a “member lite”. 🙂 Anyway, that’s my story. Other than that experience, patriarchy has hurt me just by being overall pretty naive to the concerns of women.

  47. I don’t feel that I was particularly abused, but maybe that’s because I was already “over” being a Mormon. When I was in college, I moved out of state and was “living in sin” with my then-boyfriend. The bishop in my parents’ ward pursued information about me relentlessly, even pressuring my brother who was in a leadership position in his own ward at the time, to give him information about my whereabouts and activities. He finally tracked me down, and I received my excommunication letter. Since I was planning on moving back to Salt Lake anyway, I asked them to postpone the church court until I could be present. Prior to the church court being convened, the bishop came to my parents’ house and asked me if I would foreswear ever “living in sin” again, and that if I did, the excommunication wouldn’t go forward. I declined, but it felt as though he was bargaining for my very soul. I didn’t really care what they did, but I wanted to let them know that their actions could alienate someone else forever, which I didn’t believe was the goal of excommunication. I was excommunicated, and it destroyed my parents, especially my mother.

  48. I have three incidents to share. I want to be clear that I do not expect perfection from any other person, in leadership roles or otherwise. However, I do expect a certain level of basic human decency that seems, to me anyway, to have been violated in each of these experiences.

    In college, there was a guy (I’ll call him X) using hypnosis, and likely date rape drugs, to sexually assault women. When I realized a friend of mine was missing hours of memory after X had offered to help her “process” sexual abuse in her past, I went to my bishop, along with my roommate and the friend missing memory. The bishop and the stake president were totally supportive of us, and they reached out to X’s stake president. X’s stake president refused to interview X, claiming that X was such a great guy, and that we “girls” were just crying rape to get attention. X got away with it, and last I heard was a counselor in a YSA ward. It made me nauseous to think about X being in any kind of position of power over young women, so I talked to my then-bishop about it. He believed me, and reached out to X’s leadership. I was told I may receive calls from X’s leaders, but I never did. I have no way to follow up, no idea whether or not he is still being given access to potential victims behind locked doors.

    The next experience was near the end of my mission. I have learning disabilities and health concerns, but had worked my hardest and given 100% the whole time I was there – the first time in my life I had managed to do that. It was impossibly difficult, in every way, but I was really proud of how hard I had tried. I served in a visitor’s center near a temple, and in my exit interview with my visitor’s center director, he informed me that while I was easily in the top 5% of my group of missionaries in terms of intellect and ability, he felt that I had not done well enough in my service, and that I could have done more. I had one week left of my mission. He had no idea what I was dealing with (I purposefully left it out of my application paperwork because I am proud and sometimes very stupid). I am sure that if you talked to him, there is an entire other side to this story, and I know how hard it can be to work with people who have LDs. However, I think his biggest problem with me was that I refused to invite every single person who came into the VC to meet with missionaries. I have spent most of my life around people who are not members of the church, and my director hadn’t. I know how to talk to people who aren’t members. My director didn’t. He saw no issue with the invitation, and I knew it would generally weird people out. I looked at the Visitor’s Center as church PR, a chance to show our best to members of the community who had questions. It was a chance to help them feel peace and to feel loved, whatever their beliefs. I didn’t want to disrupt that with an obviously unwelcome invite to talk to the missionaries. Most people who came there were curious, not on a quest for the truth with a capital T. This meant that my numbers sucked, but I didn’t care about the numbers. He did. It probably made me look defiant in his eyes, and we can’t have women with their own ideas about what is right and what is wrong, apparently.

    I’m sure he didn’t mean to, but this experience absolutely broke my heart. I had wanted to serve a mission since I was a little girl, I had truly given my all every day that I was out, and here I was being told that my dedicated 18 months of 24/7 volunteer service was insufficient, without any time left to show him he was wrong.

    My last experience is the most recent, and the most raw. I was open with my ward and stake leadership about my participation in Ordain Women. I told them when I went from being a supporter with a profile to being active in leadership. I told them when I decided to participate in an action. I heard nothing from my stake, and nothing but support from my ward. When it was time to renew my temple recommend, my ward had questions, which was great because it gave me a chance to talk to them about my perspective as a faithful member who also wanted to do more. Most women have their children to think of, but as I am childless, I have more time and energy to devote to other things. Unfortunately, being female, most of those service opportunities are priesthood duties for men only. I passed my ward interview without any problems.

    When I got to my stake interview, my husband was also brought in. My husband was asked to offer the prayer. My husband was asked if he supported my stance on female ordination, and when he responded affirmatively, my husband, despite not making a single public statement on supporting Ordain Women, lost his temple recommend along with me. He was being disciplined for allowing his wife to step out of line, and I could not believe it. When I realized that the reasons behind this disciplinary action were motivated by a statement at a leadership meeting (in which no women were in attendance, I might add), i did my best to track down a transcript. I talked to the stake, I left messages for area authorities, I left messages for general authorities. I heard nothing. Meanwhile, my opportunity to go through the temple for my grandmother, who I loved dearly, was taken away. Family relationships were damaged. Would it have been so unChristlike to let Ordain Women in to the tabernacle and listen to a meeting that was already being broadcast online? Would it be so hard to listen to the genuine pain of these women and men, and open up a dialog? It breaks my heart, because so many of us love the teachings of Christ and study the scriptures and show up each Sunday and devote thousands of hours to making the church a beautiful place – but because of the body parts we were born with, we have no voice. All I was asking for was a prayer. Not the priesthood, a PRAYER to see if God had anything else to say on the matter of female ordination. If asking for a revelation from the prophet is grounds for discipline, how can this possibly be the Kingdom of Christ, the Savior who gave so much more than crumbs to the woman who asked of Him?

  49. While attending a married student ward at BYU, I had a routine interview with a member of the Stake presidency. In this interview, he asked me how often I had sex with my husband. I was not comfortable with the question or with answering, but felt that he must be inspired, especially because we didn’t have sex very often and it was a point of trial in our marriage. So I answered anyway. He told me we should be having sex more often, and that I should tell my husband so. He pressed me for more detail, asking if my dissatisfaction with our sex life had led to any inappropriate behaviors on my part. I felt so guilty, I confessed to being aroused from wishful fantasies of having sex with my own husband. I resolved right there not to have them any more. When I told my husband about this incident years later, he was furious. At the time, I assumed that whatever a priesthood leader asked of me must be right and inspired, and trusted that rule over my own feelings.

  50. I dated my BYU ward’s Elder’s Quorum president for a year and a half – much to the encouragement of my bishop – and this boyfriend treated me, well, terribly. His priesthood office and the Church’s emphasis on gender roles were just extra tools for manipulation. I’d always felt inadequate in the Church anyway since I was raised in a nontraditional home (a divorced single-mother), so if someone told me I didn’t understand how a gender roles or relationships were supposed to work in the Church, I was prone to believe them. I was an easy victim of emotional abuse, and I responded to my boyfriend’s constant criticism by becoming anxious and subservient.

    I can’t really know what would have happened if my bishop hadn’t repeatedly pulled me aside to praise my boyfriend and encourage me to commit to marrying him, or if I’d had the opportunity to be interviewed by a female leader, or if my boyfriend hadn’t wielded a position of Priesthood authority. But I remember the crushing worthlessness and emotional desperation I felt as my priesthood leader encouraged me to marry a man who was seen as “good” because of his priesthood service, even though he treated me terribly.

  51. In the interest of time, I’ll cut my painful story down to this. My wife is a natural-born leader and loves to be in charge, and is really good at it. I’m a natural-born follower and nurturer. We couldn’t be more at odds, other than I’m gay and she’s straight, and we’re working on one of those infamous mixed-orientation-marriages right now (after I came out 2 years ago). The Church’s proclamation on the family hurt me so deeply that I became suicidal and lost my emotional balance; my wife still won’t admit to being a leader, but she does secretly hope for a calling like she had several years ago, as Primary President where she served for six years, and loved every minute of it, and was really good at it, too! I had to say good-bye to the Chicken Patriarchy; it was too painful and emotionally damaging to me. My wife still hangs on, with faith that God will do something to correct all the human errors in the church.

  52. As a male, I grew up in the church with very conflicting information. I was taught that man and wife raised children as equal partners, and then in the breath, taught that it was a woman’s job to raise children and the man’s job to provide for the family. These never seemed very equal at all.

    As I got older, into high school age, I remember having the idea that women were supposed to submit themselves to their husband’s sexual desires, regardless of her own desire. I don’t remember where I heard it specifically, but I do remember discussing it with friends, and they agreed with me. Later in life, I had an acquaintance who told me his wife had been married previously. Her previous bishop had told her that she was to submit to her husband’s needs, even though she was in an abusive relationship and she wanted nothing to do with her husband and intimacy. I’m glad that I’m now in a position that I can see that for what it is – second hand rape!

  53. When I was sixteen a man (early thirties) came home to visit his family. He had seen me sitting in sacrament, afterwards he told my mother that he was going to wait until I was 18 then he wanted to marry me. I had never talked to or even seen the guy. When we talked about the strange incident with other ward members, even leaders, their responses were that he had a lot of money and I could just stay home. It was one of the most bizzare experiences of my life!

    My mother (single parent of five) was always treated differently in the church because we weren’t the typical mormon family.

    Like others said I have felt pressured and controlled in almost every aspect of my life by church leaders. What to wear, how to behave, which carrier path to take.

  54. When I was 15, a well-intentioned Bishop awkwardly told me that I was a pretty girl, and needed to be careful of the effect I was having on the YM. The following Sunday we had a lesson in YW titled ‘preparing to be an eternal companion’. My YM friend told me their lesson was ‘choosing an eternal companion’. This was my introduction to the LDS perception of womanhood; a passive corollary.

    I was a good teenager. I was obedient, did exceptionally at school, had hobbies I was good at, and took religion seriously. As I headed towards university, I was excited for my future; I was accepted to study medicine. In October 2007, however, I heard “Mother Who Know”. While yes, the talk was penned by a woman, it’s still a direct product of the patriarchy. This was coupled with enduring the disaster which is the CES manual on eternal marriage, specifically the section on the evils of working mothers. I was overcome with guilt and dropped out of medical school.

    I felt like my mind finally broke under the strain of being an LDS woman, where mutual after mutual you learn to iron shirts, make Modest Wedding Dresses out of toilet paper, and repeat that your life purpose is to ‘strengthen home and family’, and are instructed that ‘no success can compensate for failure in the home’. You can only hear this thing week after week during your youth for so long before you internalize it. And, because you’re obedient and know ‘the natural men is an enemy to God’, you actually start to see that burning passion for a wholesome career as a worldly passion that you need to bridle, because you’re a woman. So you wrestle (although not literally, because James E Faust said that’s not a good sport for a woman, unless of course you’re starring in Meet the Mormons) with that your entire life, you subvert your desire to do it, you perform well in school and try to mollify yourself by saying ‘at least you can teach your children, which is what it’s all about, right, right?’. You get married, you have 4 children before you’re 30, and the burning passion for a career has now smouldered a hole through your happiness. At this point, CES decided woman can have kids and a job with them and says the change is happening to make it possible ‘for families to decide what best meets their needs as it relates to mothers working while raising children’.

    I dread to think how it feels to have had 8 children, one after the next, because the prophets told you birth control was of the devil, only for the church to back off that entirely and claim ‘it’s between husband/wife/God’. I imagine it feels how I feel about having a career, only more tired. The church is learning, as it has with things like birth control and interracial marriages etc, that they need to back out of these highly personal and cultural decisions, but int he process, they’ve screwed a lot of (women especially) out of their passions

    I never had my own spiritual conversion, so I had to trust other’s light (candle of the lord: bkp), and their light was telling me that my desire to work outside the home, in a job that couldn’t just be ‘quit’ once I got married, was a temptation of Satan.

    Another problem I had was struggling with dating. I recognise that I was an attractive girl, but that made me nervous around LDS boys. I dated a nonLDS boy once, and it went wonderfully because he didn’t resent the ‘temptations’ I presented him; he just accepted them and then moved on and treated me like a person. That relationship was doomed from the start though, since I was plagued by guilt over dating a non-LDS person (although the church has also reneged on their hard0line stance on that too). LDS boys I dated liked me, but I was asked multiple times to ‘not walk like that’ and had one boy tug on the hem of my below-knee length skirt when I sat down and it rose to just above my kneecap. I started to feel like I was intrinsically bad and I felt uncomfortable about my body. I later went to the temple and garments just amplified the living daylights out of that. Garments are a patriarchal design because their design remains ultimately overseen by men only, or women who have been patriarchally normative enough in LDS ways to ascend to leadership positions.

    Before I stop rambling, I have also been effected sexually. The church teaches it’s own form of sexual education, whether it admits it or not, and it’s designed by men. It takes a male perspective when teaching youth especially – YM biologically have a pilot light of sexuality and overt genitals, which, if you want to teach abstinence, may respond well to ‘don’t think about it until marriage’. Women’s sexual function is more complicated, and ti requires sexual identity to be facilitated healthily, yet YW are not only told to subvert their sexuality until marriage, but told to eradicate it, lest they tempt the boys. Ironic, since they’re also told their point in life is to be wifes and mothers (ROLES THAT REQUIRE SEXUALITY). It has taken me years to feel alright in viewing myself as a sexual person, and viewing sex as something I don’t ‘do for my husband’, but something I do for us, and myself.

  55. It brings back too many painful memories to ever talk about all the disgusting things my unrighteous priesthood-holding father did to me. I believe there’s a huge number of abused women/men who are so traumatized they will never speak out…ever. We are left with no self-esteem and too much fear to ever seek help or share our stories with another human being, especially not publicly. I’m a grown woman and I fear men in authority and do not trust anyone. I hide from people every day of my life. I’m afraid people will find out that deep inside I’m everything my Dad said I was. I wish I had the guts to just end this misery.

  56. As a child I was sexually abused. This had nothing to do with the church or priesthood leaders, but it strongly influenced my behavior as a teenager. I became sexually active at an early age, and began lightly experimenting with drinking and drugs. In college I was raped twice. The second time was such a violent attack that I ended up hospitalized for it. All through these years, I was constantly in bishops offices (in the beginning, because my Mom forced me to after finding out I was having sex). My bishops were usually kind men, but I was constantly being reprimanded and felt constant guilt for my behavior. This eventually led me away from the church. I felt unloved and unworthy of love, even God’s love. Finally, years later, I started going to church again. I met with a bishop after yet another “mistake” with a guy I was dating. For the first time in my life, instead of reprimanding me, or making me feel guilty, he started asking about my past. He asked if I had ever been sexually abused or raped. I was surprised by his questions, but answered honestly and opened up. He told me that a lot of women who have been through what I had been through, struggled with these kinds of problems. He told me how much God loves me, and he told me that we will all be judged differently, depending on what we have been through. He told me that I needed to stop being so hard on myself and that I needed to forgive myself. It is incredible to me, how much those words helped me start to heal. I wish so badly that all of the many other men that I had been forced to sit with and confess to had better training and understanding when dealing with such serious problems. I don’t fault them for it— they were probably doing the best they knew how, but those forced confessions were damaging to me, when they could have helped me. What if it had been a woman I talked to? Or what if the bishop or leader (man or woman) had had some basic training on how to spot sexual abuse and how to deal with it? I’m very grateful for the incredible bishop that I did eventually have, who helped me so much.

  57. About 8-1/2 years into my first marriage, hubby (RB) became very mentally abusive to me. He would tell me I had to do what he said because I’d covenanted in the temple to follow his counsel. One night, he’d caught me praying in the living room in the middle of the night. When I refused to tell him, because God says to go into our closets and pray in secret, he said I must be paying for things that were evil or that I was ashamed of, or praying against him.

    I finally went to my bishop, but he didn’t know who was telling the truth and would not do anything about how RB was behaving. We did go to counseling, but that didn’t help, either. RB was a Jekyll & Hyde, and no one saw Mr Hyde but my kids and me.

    When Bishop wouldn’t help, I went to the stake president. He counseled us both, but wasn’t really helpful. After about 1-1/2 years of this abuse, I finally couldn’t take it anymore and I attempted to take my own life.

    My family finally intervened and helped me get a restraining order and file for a divorce. Months later, the stake president admitted he hadn’t known who was telling the truth until after we’d separated and RB called him demanding I be excommunicated. He was sure I’d been unfaithful, and told the SP that I had not honored his priesthood and so wasn’t keeping my temple covenants. He apologized to me.

    I’d always believed that bishops and stake presidents had the Spirit of Discernment and could therefore discern when someone was lying or being truthful. I learned that was false. They are just men and don’t know jack.

  58. My sister told me about this and I thought I’d add my 2c:

    I’m a divorced LDS woman, husband cheated multiple times on me, hence the divorce. I went on a date with a man a few weeks ago, 4th date, and he told me he couldn’t see me anymore because there was no point to furthering the relationship because I was sealed to someone else.

  59. I am the only girl child in a large Mormon family. I have been active my whole life and was married in the temple. I stopped attending church recently because I can no longer subject my daughter to the church’s misogyny and homophobia. I was constantly left out of scouting activities as a child(once a week activities with frequent weekend camping/mountaineering trips). We would go to church early so that they could prepare the sacrament while I sat on an empty pew. After one of my brothers was ordained to the priesthood he said this to me while lifting his pinky: “I have more power in my little finger than you will ever have.”

  60. I see a reoccurring pattern here… I was sexually abused by my stepdad when I was 9 (lasted only a few months) and later testified against him and he went to prison for it. I have always had a terrible relationship with my father and my biggest guilt is knowing that a father figure giving me that kind of messed up attention was all it took and I would have done anything for him. I lived with mom and dad on rotation and dad and his wife really didn’t want me there. I didn’t get to be in the family picture until I was an adult. I pretty consumed with guilt, with the message from the church was that the only thing I had of value about myself was now gone. And I would never get it back. It got so bad that at 13 I thought I’d sinned so much in my life that the only way out was to get exed and then rebaptized. The worst I ever did was fight with my brothers.

    I moved out at 18 and it was so bad with dad and stepmom that they came home from church one sunday and I was gone with my stuff. I lived in Provo with byu roommates and went to church with them. But because of my immense guilt I refused to take the sacrament because I needed to punish myself. I haven’t taken it since I was 18 in fact. I knew that leaving the dad and stepmom would need to be repented of even if it was a toxic relationship that really gave my depression a strong foothold – where in high school I was told that depression was caused by sin, the laurel teacher read that out of the manual. But more than that what I did for the stepdad was the real problem. That message was reinforced constantly ‘I will NEVER be worthy’. Every sunday at church I didn’t take the sacrament was like me announcing that I was a bad person.

    I went through a year and a new bishop and this one actually noticed and said something. We met and I knew that if I told him I was punishing myself and why he might tell me I was wrong. Might. I told him about the abuse and he said I should read the Miracle of Forgiveness and it would help. I didn’t read it because all I heard from others in the ward was how bad it made you feel and I was recovering from depression. I know if I’d read it I would have attempted suicide, now knowing the theme. The bishop sent me to counseling, paid for by the ward, and I just couldn’t talk about it. I was worthless and didn’t want to relive. So I focused on my relationship to my parents and after 3 months stopped going. I still didn’t take the sacrament. It makes me sad to think about how horrible I felt about myself.

    As I look back I see the message to all women in the church that their virtue is all they have and once married your only role is to have babies and take care of them. I was a worthless nobody so I really wanted to make something of myself, to enjoy learning. I told my stepmom I wanted to wait until after college graduation to get married and got a lecture on what the church thinks about that. Women are responsible for the thoughts of the priesthood holders who apparently have no self control and are just animals. Then how do they have the priesthood if they are so easy to get to sin? The more I learned I could see a big line where all of the men were on the side of education and respect and authority and the women were allowed to have babies and that’s it.

    I left the church in 1998 and had to deal with family asking if I was sleeping around, an alcoholic or some combination of both. Now I avoid the subject. I was so proud of OW for giving women a chance to show themselves, after all the rest of my family are still active members and I want them to be happy. But the crackdowns on people putting up profiles and offering support on social media tell me I probably was even lower than I’d thought. Now when I go to church for family talks or programs I get angry hearing leaders and members making fun of OW and Kate Kelly and it reaffirms my reasons for leaving.

  61. My story is petty, but it spoke very loudly to me about how much that church cares about image. When I was a teen, I was into punk-rock and one day I put sun-in on my hair to change the color. I had a regular hairdo, but it was just a different color than the prior Sunday. I wasn’t too fond of church prior to this, but at 16, I thought maybe god didn’t like how I looked and it felt kind of bad.

    My (morbidly obese) bishop barred me from blessing the sacrament because of my hair color.

  62. In order of most to least damaging:

    1) The LDS church has a really, truly, abhorrently warped view of rape. Throughout my teenage years, I heard several darling quotes from past prophets about the value of “virtue” (which, in Mormon parlance, means having an intact hymen). Quotes such as these: “Your virtue is worth more than your life. Please, young folks, preserve your virtue even if you lose your lives” (McKay). “There is no true Latter-Day Saint who would not rather bury a son or a daughter than to have him or her lose his or her chastity” (Grant). “Once given or taken or stolen it can never be regained. Even in a forced contact such as rape or incest, the injured one is greatly outraged. If she has not cooperated and contributed to the foul deed, she is of course in a more favorable position. There is no condemnation when there is no voluntary participation. It is better to die in defending one’s virtue than to live having lost it without a struggle” (McConkie). It was made clear that 1. “Virtue” can be taken by force, and 2. Dying a virgin is better than living. When I was sexually assaulted in a way that made me believe I had lost my virginity, I logically concluded that if my parents would rather bury me than have me come home alive but raped, then a victim’s life has no value. I almost attempted suicide and was saved by a very astute friend. I can’t really forgive the church for the hell they put me through for that.

    But the “better dead than raped” quotes aren’t even the full extent of the awful rhetoric surrounding victims of sexual assault in the church. When I was growing up, I remember reading a story in the Young Women’s manual about a Mormon teenager who goes to a party where she knows alcohol is being served and decides to take one sip. The vignette then skips to her waking up in the morning and realizing that she had lost her “chastity.” She also realizes that it is her fault, because she took that one sip of alcohol. I remember feeling profoundly dark after reading that story. Now I know why. We have a young woman who has apparently been roofied and raped. Yet the manual equated losing her virginity to losing her virtue, then blamed the protagonist for her rape because she broke the Word of Wisdom (in a small way).

    Victim-blaming is not new in the church: Elder Scott’s 1992 talk, “Healing the Tragic Scars of Abuse,” a talk that, in my experience, is still quoted to abuse victims today, includes the gem, “The victim must do all in his or her power to stop the abuse. Most often, the victim is innocent because of being disabled by fear or the power or authority of the offender. At some point in time, however, the Lord may prompt a victim to recognize a degree of responsibility for abuse. Your priesthood leader will help assess your responsibility so that, if needed, it can be addressed.” Overall, the way the church treats rape and sexual assault is just abysmal all around.

    2) I know that I and a lot of other women have been screwed up by the church’s teachings about female sexuality. Or, more accurately, the church’s complete dearth of teachings about female sexuality. Growing up in Happy Valley, Utah, with a set of extremely conservative parents, I didn’t learn anything about sexuality. In the video we had to watch in health class about a teenage boy seeing a scantily-clad girl and getting an erection, there was no section about the female sexual response or sexuality, but we did watch a live video of a woman giving birth. In church, there were no lessons or talks about pornography or masturbation. I was cautioned to avoid arousing boys, I was told to resist the pressure boys would put on me to have sex, I was told occasionally to resist temptations to cave in to sex out of loneliness or wanting to be loved, but I was never, ever told, by anyone, that I could experience sexual desire for myself. Following the pattern set by church, girls my age behaved by the unwritten rule that talking about our own sexual desire was completely off-limits.

    This screwed me up. I was convinced that I was the only one, bad, a freak of nature. I didn’t have any close friends for my entire teenagedom because I believed that if anyone knew what I was really thinking, they would be disgusted and wouldn’t want to be friends with me anymore. I had terrible self-esteem because I believed I was unnatural and defective in some way for being sexually attracted to men. (My sexual attraction to women was a whole other issue as well.) It’s taken me several years of hard effort in my adulthood to even begin to feel like I can be a sexual being, or even that I can be a good, whole person and still have sexual feelings. This article really resonated with me and represents a lot of the ways LDS teachings on female sexuality screwed me up: http://www.xojane.com/sex/true-love-waits-pledge Particularly this quote: “Every single day is a battle to remember that my body belongs to me and not to the church of my childhood.”

    3) Church structure and doctrine reinforce that women are subordinate to men in every way. While going to high school in Utah, I attended release-time seminary. In one of these classes, a student asked why the scriptures referred to those in outer darkness as “sons of perdition,” rather than “children of perdition.” Our seminary teacher, a very well-meaning but privileged man, explained that because men hold the priesthood in heaven, men are higher than women, and so women don’t have as far to fall. (He even drew a picture on the board to illustrate how far below men women are in the Celestial Kingdom.) Simply put, it hurts that men’s authority is higher than women’s at every level of the church and, apparently, in eternity.

    However, it’s not the only doctrinal issue that hurts. It hurts that women covenant in the temple to be subordinate to their husbands and to receive priesthood power only through him as a priestess, not a goddess in her own right. It hurts when I’ve been told my whole life that Latter-day Saints believe Eve was wise and noble in eating the fruit in the garden, only to have the temple reinforce the old curse-of-Eve narrative. It hurts when there is no Heavenly Mother present during the creation portion of the temple ceremony. It hurts when it’s against church doctrine to pray to my own Heavenly Mother. It hurts when leaders tell me we can’t talk about Heavenly Mother because Heavenly Father wants to protect her (as if a GODDESS needs to be protected from some mean words). That I don’t know whether I’m going to be forced into polygamy in the eternities or not. That the writers of the book of scripture supposedly written for our day didn’t feel the need to include any stories about (or writings from) women. That two or three women speak each general conference and that’s considered enough. That female leaders’ words are never quoted and completely forgotten as soon as they leave their general-level positions. That the Relief Society has gone from being a vibrant and powerful force for good in the world to being a frivolous shell of what it used to be. That the history of Mormon women is considered frivolous and not worthy of attention in general.

    4) Career woman, seminary teacher, giving up on men
    Even in the 2010’s, a woman who wants a career is still considered damaged by most Mormon men. As a young woman, the great people in my ward generally supported me in my desire to be a career woman and not have a large family and never made me feel inferior for it. Going to BYU, I learned that being a stay-at-home mom and giving birth to at least 6 children were requirements for women if they wanted to have any hope of catching a man. Quotes from past leaders in Marriage & Family class insisted that women who wanted a career were sinning, selfish, greedy, and deceived by Satan. More important, all of the young men I associated with insisted the same things, in addition to the ideas that women who wanted to work were undesirable, unwanted b*tches, and probably also feminists.

    It wasn’t just the career thing, though. Men at BYU wanted a very specific kind of woman/girl that was clearly based on patriarchy–a woman who always agreed with them, a woman who giggled a lot, a woman who was always a peacemaker (meaning she never had an opinion and never took sides), a woman who knew everything about hair and clothes and makeup and always looked like she put it all together effortlessly, a woman who was always happy to let the man pay, a woman who was still fixated on children’s things like Disney and night games, a woman who was fairly optimistic and naive and didn’t know too much about the world. A lot of women worked very hard to fit into this ideal. Not even coming close to the ideal, I just gave up on men and haven’t dated in years. BYU left an indelible impression in my mind that men didn’t consider me worthy of marriage, and I don’t think I’m ever going back to the idea of dating or marrying again. That might be the only positive way Mormon patriarchy has affected me.

  63. Dear Anonymous…you are NOT everything your dad said you were! PLEASE know that….you are a gorgeous daughter, with a wise Mother in Heaven, who loves you dearly. Your dad and the church have done you a great disservice…they are WRONG. I know what it feels like to distrust men in authority, I do too. I no longer fear them because I no longer believe they have any authority over me. I will NEVER tell all my story to a man, nor will I ever listen to a man tell me what to believe or what to do. You are of great worth, just because you are a human being! Yes, there are many of us, abused women in the mormon church, and we each have our path to follow. For me, telling my story to a non-lds female therapist was the first step. Then I left an abusive 29 yr. temple marriage. I was so scared, had three kids at home,no skills, but I did it and the world opened up to a brightness I never knew existed! Even at age sixty-one, I still seek out therapy occasionally – it helps tremendously. Rape and molestation are ALWAYS WRONG and you were never at fault. If you would like, please friend me on FB or send me a PM or email me…penrosehistory@yahoo.com. I’ll listen, I really will. Sending you MANY blessings of peace and comfort today.

  64. I remember being a Mia Maid in Young Women’s when our leaders excitedly announced that they had arranged for the bishop, a man inspired of God to guide us in our lives, to come and speak to us about chastity.

    In all fairness, the bishop didn’t appear to relish the thought of discussing chastity with a room full of teenage girls. I remember the conversation touching on things from The Strength of Youth: “Before marriage, do not do anything to arouse the powerful emotions that must be expressed only in marriage. Do not participate in passionate kissing, lie on top of another person, or touch the private, sacred parts of another person’s body, with or without clothing. Do not allow anyone to do that with you. Do not arouse those emotions in your own body.”

    He finished by giving us Strength of Youth pamphlets and a printed talk given by a general authority.

    Our young women’s president closed by telling us if we ever had questions or needed to repent of anything that had been discussed, we could go to the bishop, and he would give us inspired council, because he was called of God for this purpose.

    I went home and poured over the materials I had been given, then burst into tears in shame of my wicked self. I had touched my own body and studied my “sacred” parts in the mirror with a sense of intrigue and excitement. I was beginning to feel stirrings that were both strange and exhilarating… and I had committed sin! I immediately set a goal to treat all of my body the same as I would my arms or my feet. I stopped looking at body in the mirror, opting to hurry and undress, shower unceremoniously, and dress quickly without looking at myself until I was done. If ever I regressed, I would reread the materials I had been given, which I had revisited so many times that almost every part had been highlighted in one color or another – then I would pray tearfully in my closet for forgiveness and strength to resist temptation.

    When it came time for my annual Bishop’s interview, he started by saying that my body was undergoing changes, and that it was important to remember that these changes were beautiful gifts from God to be shared with my future husband. When asked if I ever felt that I had transgressed against the spirit, I felt terribly awkward, and answered that I didn’t think so. For weeks I wondered if I should have confessed.

    Looking back, I realize how inappropriate it was for a grown man to be discussing these things with me, alone, in his little office. I also realize that sexual desires weren’t something I could switch off and then back on the moment I was married. By the time I was old enough to want marriage and children, I had so thoroughly trained myself to ignore my body, that I began to wonder if I was even attracted to men. Perhaps sex was just something you engaged in to create children and to satisfy your husband’s needs. It was always emphasized in church how girls should dress in order to not tempt boys, and how important it was for the girl to set and keep sexual boundaries, because boys urges were 10 times stronger. We’d all laugh and say how glad we were that we weren’t boys – but the message was clear: it was the woman’s responsibility to prevent sexual sin.

    Breaking down these barriers and opening myself to intimacy with my spouse has been a HUGE undertaking. I’m lucky to have found someone so patient and open to conversation. Now that I’m pregnant with our daughter, I’m realizing I don’t want to involve her in a church that will turn her body into an object of sin and shame. I want her to have confident and wise female role models that will help her approach life with practicality and wisdom, and I never want a patriarchal leader to meet with her behind closed doors to discuss her sexual purity. I am appalled at the way women have been subdued in the church, at the way Eve is represented in the temple, and at how marriage covenants involve a husband swearing to follow God and his wife swearing to follow her husband. And most recently, I am disgusted by how the patriarchy have thrust blame on Emma for not allowing Joseph Smith to take on all the wives “God instructed” him to – never mind that one of his wives was 14, and that he had already married many women without Emma’s knowledge or consent. Wrong is wrong, and my conscience will not allow me to uphold patriarchal leadership in order to promote faith in an obviously flawed church.

  65. I can’t begin to decide what story to share. It’s unfortunate really that I have so many to choose from. I’ll share one from my teenage years.

    At 15 I was raped after attending a church dance. The rape resulted in a pregnancy. I did not tell a soul about what happened because I felt so much shame and felt the blame for the attack would fall on my shoulders for “tempting” this monster to violate me; and I was right. After six months of pregnancy I could no longer hide what had happened to me so I was forced to face the issue and tell my parents what had happened. I was immediately taken to the bishops office where I was called to repentance and put on formal discipline. I was whisked off to LDS Family services and placed in foster care where it was assumed I would place the baby for adoption. I was told by my parents and reinforced by the Stake President that I should never tell a man what happened to me because if a man knew my story he would no longer be interested in marrying me because I would be viewed as damaged goods. Because of this advise my pregnancy was also hidden from my siblings and any other support system I may have had. The bishop and stake president both wanted me to tell them the name of the boy because they wanted to deal with his standing in the priesthood, they had no interest in helping me to press charges or to take any legal action. I refused to name the attacker because I was afraid to face him or revisit the event. I felt my community would not support me in prosecuting the boy. Years later I found out that my parents did not believe that I was raped and that it was a convenient story I had told to cover up why I was pregnant.

    Years later when I shared my story with someone I was dating, he was still interested in me. I was shocked and amazed at how lucky I must be to find anyone who would still want me. This almost lead to a what I believe would have been an unhappy marriage because I was willing to marry whomever would accept me and my past. Fortunately I was able to escape that relationship and have come to understand that I was more than my past and more than a past I didn’t choose.

    Later when I was engaged to my husband I was anxious about our upcoming sexual relationship so I spoke to my bishop about my concerns and he set up a few sessions with a counselor from LDS Family Services. I meet with this man a time or two but knew I would not make progress with him because the only advise he gave was that I should not worry about having sex with my husband and that I would make a fine wife and mother some day because that is where my value lay.

  66. My mother was encouraged by her bishop and stake president to stay in abusive relationship with my step-father for six years. The abuse was directed at her (mental and physical) and to her 3 children (mental, physical and sexual). My mother finally left, and his most severe penalty was disfellowship.

    As a young adult woman (returned missionary) meeting with my bishop expressing my disinterest in marriage and family, opinions that included my f’d up feelings about sexuality, my bishop said, “My wife doesn’t like sex either, but we have 10 children.”

  67. My bishop put me on probation when I got knocked up out of wedlock and didn’t do a darn thing to my partner who actually had a history of sexual misconduct (according to the church).

  68. One summer at EFY I met a girl. I talked with her for a long time after EFY ended and fell in love with her, as she did me. She taught me to be myself, and to explore my sexuality. I was 14. I knew that what I was taught and what I was doing was conflicting, so in confidentiality I went to my older sister who was devout in the church. She immediately pulled me into my parents room, woke them up and told them I had something to tell them. I was choking on my tears as I told them I think I need to talk to the bishop. I shyly saw the bishop and my 14 year old self spit out the words that I touched myself thinking about girls. I couldn’t even tell my family this, I had only told my sister I had liked girls. I was given pamphlets, had to give up taking the sacrament, lost my temple recommend (the kiddie one), and the bishop had told my parents everything I had told him. I was being publicly shamed, the bishop watching me making sure i didn’t partake of the sacrament. I had to go back weekly and report how many times that week I had touched myself. I started self mutilating and was diagnosed with moderate depression. My phone had to be in the possession of my parents after 8pm. I couldn’t talk to my girlfriend. She visited once, only to have my sister watching us everywhere we went. Glares cast from my parents if I got too close.

    I was making no “progress” in their standards so I started lying. I fought daily with my girlfriend, I just couldn’t please both parties. It broke us up and I lay defeated, back in the grasp of the Mormon church. The rest of high school I convinced myself along with the church teachings that it was Satan tempting me and I am better than that. I graduated seminary and went to BYUI, started dating men a little seriously. I knew I didn’t want an RM, I wasn’t that “churchy” so I dated a Baptist boy from the next city. At least it was a man, my parents could be okay with that, right? wrong. I lost my virginity, got kicked out of school and moved back home. dated other boys non seriously, got date raped and called it quits. That was the last straw. Why was I torturing myself? For my parents? For God? It didn’t make sense. I went to singles ward only to skip, so my parents would think I was going to church. Finally I quit going altogether. I started seeing women again. I came out to my older brother shortly after, who helped me come out to my family.
    It went like most other coming out stories, a lot of tears and anger and confusion, but I’m okay.

    The church has given me good values to grow up with, but the church almost ruined my life. I couldn’t be happier now that I have left. I still see the bishop that put me through under qualified therapy, as he is a good friend of my parents. I cannot look him in the eye. No young girl should ever have to tell a grown man about herself finding and exploring her sexuality. It’s disgusting. And the “gay therapy” they give you at a young age is inhumane. Parents, please send your children to a professional guidance counselor for their depression, not an unpracticed church man. End the pain your teenagers are going through, don’t turn them away from you by forcing them to church.

    sorry for my poor writing skills… I hope those of you still in the church can get these issues resolved. If not, I encourage you to find your own path.

  69. My story is probably not as common, but is just one other example of how the harmful practices of the Mormon patriarchy has ruined my life.

    Although I had already left the church by this time, when I was in high school, I had a friend. We will call her Emily. Emily was a good friend of mine, and had helped me through the difficult time after being abused and raped by my ex boyfriend. At one point, she became curious about my pansexuality, and what it was like. Eventually, she (not-so-subtly) manipulated the conversation to sound as though my sexual preference stemmed from a hatred of men. I didn’t understand what she was doing at the time, but eventually she asked me if she could kiss me. Having just become comfortable with my sexuality, I figured it wouldn’t matter, so I agreed, UPON ONE CONDITION. I explained to her that if she chose to do this, she couldn’t grow to regret it. I didn’t want her to blame me for her guilt if she decided later she didn’t want to. I made it 100% clear to her that I would only do it if I had her full consent (being a rape victim, consent is very important to me.) I never would have done it if she hadn’t agreed.

    However, when it came time for her to be worthy to go to the temple with her (now) husband, she began telling every one of my friends that I had molested her. I lost every single friend I had. I reached out to a relatively distant acquaintance who even directly told me that she wanted nothing to do with me. I became an outcast. People who knew shunned me, and those who didn’t, I ran from in fear. I became paranoid to be around people.

    Suddenly because the opinions of her bishop and her husband mattered more than me, I was being alienated.

    In another instance, when I was 14, I had discovered I was attracted to other females and told a friend in my ward who I thought I could trust. I just told her about my experiences, nothing else.

    Then she went to the bishop and told him I had tried to kiss her (I’m just now starting to see a pattern here…) I vehemently denied this. I had done nothing of the sort. But I was forced to sit with the bishop and deny my sexual orientation or be disfellowshipped from the church. AT FOURTEEN YEARS OLD.

    Luckily, I saved face and the bishop did nothing about it after our talk. But he got my parents involved and outed me to them. Though we have never had a formal talk about my sexuality, I’m fairly certain they are aware because of him. I could have lost everything had I not lied and denied everything.

    I am not safe in any LDS setting. And I never will be.

  70. I joined the church at 17 after attending an all-girls school and believing I could and would do anything I wanted to do. Within 2 years I was at BYU and feeling miserable because suddenly everyone seemed to think I had to wear nylons to church, spend time on hair and make-up every day, and get married and have children. I wanted to study medicine but the message I got from church was that I should put my future family first and therefore I could not expect to get married and have children AND complete my studies. Men had time for that, but not women… So I changed major and have felt like I sold out ever since.

  71. I married in the Temple and have several children. I am also well educated and have a profession. I have struggled with depression for years because the pressure church (the teachings, my leaders and ward members) has always been for me to stay home with them. I eventually returned to work part-time and feel happy and full-filled by contributing to society but I still deal with terrible guilt at choosing to “leave” my children. Every conference talk, quote from the pulpit and disapproving look from church members forces me to remember that their version of what God wants for his daughters is not necessarily true. I never want my daughters to feel they have to choose between their children and their sanity – you can have both.

  72. A year or two ago my daughter and the YW in our stake went to girls camp at a Boy Scout Reservation. The same, exact location that the YM would be going to the following week. This place was awesome. It had mountain biking, an archery range, rock climbing, rifle shooting, white water rafting, ropes course and more. These girls were excited to get a chance to do the fun and cool things the boys got to do.

    When they came home at the end of the week I was super excited to hear about their great adventures. Unfortunately the only adventure they had was a hike and canoeing on the pond. No rock climbing, no archery, no white water rafting, no challenging or adventurous activities were available for the girls. My Laurel age daughter told me that as a YCL she was in charge of “babysitting” the 12 year old girls and watching them while they did all their crafts and other similar activities throughout the week. The YCL had little time built into the week for their own enjoyment and fun.

    Fast forward to a few Sundays and the bishop asked some boys and some girls to stand in sacrament meeting to share what they did during their weeks at camp. I remember one priest telling about his time rafting and rock climbing and how challenging it was and how strong he felt to have done that. To do something hard. He spoke of the merit badges he completed and the practical knowledge he gained at camp.

    The girls spoke of testimony building and their commitment to be better mothers when they grew up. How they learned skills of nurturing the younger girls by creating crafts and activities for them.

    The priest and the laurel who spoke went to the same camp a week a part from each other and both had such different experiences. The disparity was too much for me to take so I spoke to the visiting High counselor after sacrament. I asked him if he noticed the difference of the accounts of the boys and girls and if he thought that was right. Fortunately he did see the difference and pledged that he would talk to the Stake President about getting the girls approved for more equal activities.

    The patriarchy needed to give permission for the girls to use the camps facilities. It never came. A year later the girls went to the same camp ground and returned with the same results.

    I nearly forgot to mention that the girls had to swim with shorts and shirts over their one piece swim suits (at an all girls camp) while the boys, a week later, swam shirtless in just their trunks in a mixed gender environment.

  73. I have a mother in heaven. I know it and the church teaches it, so why do I get scoffed at and reprimanded when I mention her in my prayers? Why do my children get heckled when they pray at church and address their Heavenly Parents? Because somewhere, sometime a male leader in our church said that he didn’t think it was appropriate. This is MY MOTHER we are talking about! No woman can hold a position of authority in the church that will make this permissible (to the general body of the church). I grieve for Mother to have a voice and to have her daughters more fully represented.

    1. Imagine if you will a mother. When you think of all the qualities of a mother do you find yourself thinking of words like absent? Removed? Uninterested in her child’s lives? Someone who doesn’t want to be spoken to or about by her children? For a religion that is pushing it’s women to be stay at home hands on mom’s, they certainly have chosen an odd way to portray a heavenly mother. It’s always confused me too.

      1. I love what you have both said, and wholeheartedly agree. Aileen, I’ve been praying to Heavenly Parents too. What harm is there in acknowledging Her, sending our love, and asking for Her support in our lives? She can choose to remain silent if she wishes, but at least She won’t be ignored. Can you imagine how it would feel if your children behaved like their father was the only parent they had – running to him for help and advice, telling him they love him, and thanking him for all that they have – then going about their lives as though you don’t exist? Maybe we really aren’t supposed to pray to her, but I think it’s worth the risk.

  74. My husband automatically gets to exercise authority over me forever because he is male, and people at church defer to him to make decisions even when I am present. I can never make a decision in my church callings that is not approved by men. I will never have a male at church know that one day I could have the same responsibilities as him because somehow I was not born equal to that task. I am scorned because I am willing to say that women CAN do anything God requires to be done on earth, including baptise, bless and watch over people. All this makes me mad, frustrated and amazed that people can be so ignorant.

  75. I have an example which pales in comparison to the other stories, but wanted to share them here to give you an idea of how insidious the sexism can be. And how deep and pervasive.

    As a young married woman I attended the temple for the first time in the early 1980s. I was confused about having to covenant to “obey” my husband, when my mom had been in 2 violent marriages and barely escaped with her life in one of them. To be righteous and worthy to attend the temple, she would have had to covenant to “obey” her violent abusive husbands.

    I also did not understand, and will never understand, why women have to hide their faces but men do not. I went to the temple president and asked him. He said women cannot pray directly to God in the “True Order” of prayer, because they do not hold the priesthood. He also volunteered that women can never see the face of Christ because they don’t hold the priesthood. From that moment on, the temple was always a painful experience for me – being constantly reminded that because I was born a woman and was banned from the priesthood, I could not pray directly to God in the temples and could never see Christ’s face.

  76. This was posted earlier on John’s Facebook feed and I am re-posting here in case you would like it consolidated in one place.

    Instead of addressing the issue with me, my bishop went to my husband and told him that I needed to stop my public support of OW and that I needed to stop posting my writings on the internet because: “I don’t want to be put into the same position as Kate Kelly’s bishop”.

    I was basically threatened with excommunication via my husband for speaking and writing in support of OW. We were released from our callings about a week later. No priesthood leader has spoken directly to me about OW to this day which is telling in and of itself.

    I continue to write and post what I will. I support OW with a profile and I support SSM as well. I do not have or write for any blog, etc. I only posted a research paper I had written in regards to OW.

    I no longer attend SS or RS and only attend SM on occasion with my husband. Temple recommend was expired at the time this occurred and I have no desire to renew it so they have no leverage. This happened in June 2014. No action has taken place since then.

  77. My story is long, and I won’t type out all the details here, but I will give the gist of it here. Fourteen years ago, when my two year mission was nearly completed, I suffered severe spiritual, emotional, and verbal abuse at the hands of my mission president.

    I was sick for a few days, therefore I stayed inside and didn’t go out with my companion. My previous mission president had taught us that this is the right way to handle things when you are sick. Unfortunately, my current mission president at the time, decided he wanted to meet with me about being sick. So while I was still not feeling well, I met with him, and my companion was taken away by the AP’s. For the next 3+ hours, I was questioned and belittled about rules he suggested I was breaking, because it was impossible for me to be sick if I was being obedient. Having already been sick, it was a very difficult three hours, but the worst hadn’t even started.

    After I kept telling my mission president that I was being obedient to the rules, which I was, he finally decided to raise the stakes a notch. He stood up and said directly to me in my eyes “By the power of the holy Melchizedek priesthood, I curse you for the rest of your life.”

    I was shattered by this, and the depression and anxiety that followed eventually got me sent home from my mission 3 months early due to health reasons. My parents, who have some connections in the church, were furious with how I was treated, and did the best they could to help.

    Over the course of the next 3 years, my life got much darker. I couldn’t get a job, I couldn’t go to school. The anxiety and depression caused from what my mission president did affected every facet of my life in negative ways. During the 3 years after I was sent home from my mission, several General Authorities were involved in my story, as well as 3 current Apostles. Some of them tried to be nice to patch things up, but always they put the blame on me for what the mission president did, and always the message was sent that unless I get in line and get obedient, then I will continue to suffer. I am sure they didn’t see this as the message they sent, but by continuing to exonerate my mission president, and to not fix what he did to me, this was the only possible outcome.

    In the end, years later, I am doing better, but I still suffer from time to time from what my mission president did to me. I can’t walk into a church building without shaking and reliving my abuse. I am not capable of being active in the church as a result, even if I wanted to. Family have victim blamed me, and put the responsibility on me for what was done to me. It has been my cross to bear. I no longer hold ill will to my mission president, but I admit, I do to the LDS church as a whole. My mission president was exonerated, and I was left to suffer because I am the one who wasn’t important, but my mission president was.

    There are many more details to this story, but for a short post like this, this is sufficient. Also, as a man, I don’t want to take away from the women who suffer greatly from the patriarchy in the church. I am certain, that simply because I am a man, that I have had many benefits that women do not have. I feel that if this story had happened to a sister missionary, that it would have been much worse than it was for me.

  78. I recall being part of a huge dance festival when I was around 15 years old in 2008. Living in an area with summers averaging around 90 to 100 degrees outside (32 to 37 Celsius), oftentimes modesty was pushed to the side in my family. I had no problem exposing my shoulders and wearing shorts above my knee. I spent a lot of time outside in the heat at that time. I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
    At the dance festival however, we were forbidden from wearing anything but t-shirts and our shorts had to be below our knees. I remember sweating in the sun, out on football fields, practicing a ridiculous dance, for hours during the weekends.
    I thought I would be fine, and kept pushing myself. My family had taught me never to complain about my physical ailments, (another problem entirely) so I kept quiet about the modesty standards, though amongst my friends I actively questioned why I couldn’t wear real shorts and a tank top.
    After about two weekends (a total of four days out on football fields doing this) I finally succumbed to heat exhaustion. I passed out after running to a medical tent where they did nothing but let me sit there and tried to give me water. I took off these ridiculous heels I had to wear (yes. heels on a football field), and I don’t remember much after getting to the tent because I, apparently, flowed in and out of consciousness until finally my mom came for me.
    Later, I found out they were saying that I had suffered heat exhaustion because I wasn’t drinking enough water, which was bullsh*t. Then they started offering water bottles to some of the stakes involved in the festival, but that was quite clear that nobody was going to say anything about the long shorts and full t-shirts everyone was forced to wear.
    Because, apparently, if I died of heat stroke/heat exhaustion, that would have been better than “tempting boys” with my shoulders and knees.

  79. This is not easy for me to do, but I hope it will help others and change some of the terrible practices within the LDS church.

    I was born into an active LDS family. As a small child all I ever wanted to do was show Jesus how much I loved him by following his commandments. I was innocent and pure. When I entered the waters of baptism, I took my covenants seriously. If I got into a fight with my bother or sisters, I would ask for their forgiveness and pray to Heavenly Father to find forgiveness in his heart for me. I wanted to remain as pure and clean as the day I was baptized.

    I was a shy child and deeply respected the men I saw at the pulpit every Sunday. Our steak had a Christmas party just after my ninth birthday. I had invited my non-member friend to attend with me. As kids do, we ran through the church halls and found a classroom that had a chalkboard and chalk. We drew pictures on the board and were having a good time when one of the men that I saw on the pulpit came into the room. He asked us what we were doing there. We thought we were going to get in trouble. We pointed to our drawings on the chalkboard. He then closed the door to the classroom. My friend and I looked at each other with scared faces as he came closer to us. He then fondled each of us and told us we would not get in trouble, we just needed to not say anything. He left the room and my friend and I started crying. Neither one of us wanted to get in trouble so we didn’t say anything. At the tender age of nine, I felt responsible for what had happened to my friend. I also felt dirty and awful inside. The water’s of baptism now haunted me. I didn’t feel clean and pure anymore.

    I was plagued with nightmares over the incident and would spend nearly every night sleeping at my parent’s bedside until I was 12. I would tell them I had a bad dream and they got used to me being by their side. I also was horrified to go to church. I would make every excuse not to go. I begged my parents for us to sit in the back of the chapel when I attended. I didn’t want to see that man. A few years later, our ward boundaries were changed and I never saw the man again.

    My teenage years were tumultuous. My father, who served on a student bishopric, began emotionally and physically abusing me and my siblings. I was suffering from pretty bad depression and had a hard time functioning. I didn’t want to get out of bed in the mornings. My father was so frustrated with me that he would swear at me nearly every morning calling me a bitch or an asshole. My depression grew and I began to think about suicide. In desperation, I went to my bishop to ask him for help. I thought if he talked with my dad, the abuse might stop. I also felt that I needed to tell him about the sexual assault that happened to me and my friend when I was younger because it was making me feel really bad. I was unprepared for what he was about to tell me. He told me that the sexual assault had happened so long ago and since the man was dead it was up to me to forgive him and move on with my life. He then defended my father telling me that everyone makes mistakes that my dad was a good man. He shared with me the analogy that when someone is in a hole those that are not in the hole need to help pull that person out. My father was in the hole and it was my responsibility to pull him out. If I could be an example to him, he would change. I told him how depressed and hurt I was by what my father had done and was doing to me and my siblings. I told him it took a lot of courage for me to reach out for help and that I didn’t think he was helping me. He dismissed me and told me to pray for strength. I left his office devastated.

    I went back home and continued to be abused by my father. He would grab at my stomach and ask if I was pregnant. He called me a slut and a little bitch. I was dating a fair amount of young men, but they were just my friends. I fell deeper and deeper into the abyss of depression and tried to end my life at seventeen. It was at that point that I knew I would need to get out of the house or die. I went to my grandparents and ask for their help. They were so incredibly supportive and gave me money for my first months rent for an apartment. I dropped out of high school and began working at a full time job. I was living on my own and was free from the daily torment of my father. I was also a safe refuge for my siblings.

    I saved up enough money to finish high school and start college. It was a really positive time in my life. Then the unimaginable happened. I went on a date with a guy at my college and was date raped. I really thought I was going to die. My world that I had worked so hard for fell apart in one night. I slowly went off the deep end–I stopped going to church, started drinking and having inappropriate relationships with a man, perhaps as a way of feeling that I had control over the uncontrollable in my life. That lasted about two months and knew I needed to try to get back on the straight and narrow. I knew I needed to repent and so went back to my home ward bishop and told him of my discretions. He put me on a formal bishop’s probation and asked that I keep in touch with him. I meet with him every month and told him I was doing better. It was while I was on this probation that I met my husband. We dated for several months and then decided we wanted to get married. I had told him all about my past indiscretions, but he loved me anyway. I told him I was on probation, but the year was up in two months. We went back to the bishop and asked if the probation could be lifted so we could have a temple marriage. He told us no and that I would need to complete the year. I was devastated. My husband was undeterred and told me would be married civilly and then have our temple sealing later. Our civil ceremony was wonderful. A member of the Seventy performed our ceremony and it was better than anything I could have imagined.

    After patiently waiting a year after our civil marriage to be sealed in the temple, I went to my new bishop and let him know that me and my husband were ready to be sealed. He said he would need to reconvene the dispensary counsel. I was anxious about the process, but I understood that the reward at the end would be worth it. My husband came with me to the church and waited for me outside the bishop’s office. I stepped into a room with four men. I wasn’t expecting that and it increased my anxiety. I had to recant my past sins and tell them all how I was truly repentant. Then one of the men asked me if I had gone to the man I had sex with and asked for his forgiveness. I was dumbfounded. I told him that my last bishop strictly forbade me from ever talking to him again and I hadn’t. They dismissed me from the room as they decided my eternal fate. I ran to my husband and began sobbing. I told him what had happened and told him I could no longer take it and ran out of the church crying. I ran all the way home with tears streaming down my face. I knew I was never going to be worthy…never have the temple sealing I had worked so hard for…and would never have an eternal family. My husband waited for the bishop and his counselors to open the door after their deliberations. He was absolutely furious and screamed at them saying, “What in the hell did you do to my wife? She has left and will mostly likely never come back.” They sat there in shock. And then admitted that their questioning was probably not appropriate. The bishop came to the apartment and apologized. He told me I was no longer on probation and that if I wanted to get sealed in the temple I could. I could not give him an answer at that time. After talking with my husband for a few weeks, we decided to go ahead with the sealing.

    I thought I knew what to expect when I went to the temple, but to my shock and horror I didn’t. I prepared for the washing and anointing. I was instructed to take off all my clothes and put on the poncho shield. After being sexually assault and raped, I was not about to be naked. I kept my underwear and bra on figuring no one would know but me. Boy was that an incorrect assumption. This old woman began blessing me and the various parts of my body. She reached in under the shield and hit my bra. She looked very surprised, but continued. Then she hit my underwear. By this time, I was completely in shock and going into a full panic attack. As soon as it was over, I went back to the changing room and began crying. I held back the tears as I met my mother and we made our way to the endowment room. The entire thing was a blur to me. I remember playing the hokey-pokey with my clothes and promising that I would obey my husband. I remember crazy threats if I didn’t keep the promises I made. I just remember thinking, “This is what I worked so hard for??”. I felt like I was in some type of satanic cult. There was nothing spiritual about it. I finally made it through the veil and could be with my husband. I began sobbing. Everyone in our group thought I was overcome with how spiritual it was. No, I was overcome with how horrible it was. My husband and I were to be sealed the next day. As I left the temple with my mom and husband I told them that there was no way in hell I was ever, ever going back there. They promised me that there would not be anymore naked touching or weird rituals. With a lot of persuasion, I agreed to go back for the sealing. While there was less ritual, I was deeply disturbed that I again had to listen to my husband and give myself to him. Don’t get me wrong, I like the guy I married but it felt as if I was giving up my opportunity to commune directly with God. And after all the abusive men in my life, it was a hard concept for me to accept.

    Fast forward 15 years, my life had settled down. I was raising my wonderful son and just finishing up graduate school. I was doing my graduate research in a small village in foreign country. I had a terrible experience there and was raped multiple times. I came home and was absolutely devastated. How could this happen to me again? I felt like I was to blame for the situation. If I had been stronger, if I had not been so dependent on the community, if, if, if… I talked with my bishop about the situation and he wasn’t sure what to do. He thought I would need to have a disciplinary counsel. At this point, I was so numb and demoralized I didn’t care. I felt I had lost everything and that my life was not worth living anymore. I ended up in a psychiatric unit for a week where I was able to get some real help. I recanted the events of my stay in the village with psychiatric professionals that all told me that it was not my fault and that I had survived and should not feel guilty. While it took months for me to accept that, my bishop was not sure. He told me it would be best if I changed professions and stayed away from situations that could put me in harm’s way. After $40,000 in education expenses, I abandoned my dreams and went into a profession where I stayed at home and never had personal contact with anyone.

    I felt so vulnerable and so raw from my past church experiences, that I decided it would be best if I took a hiatus from active attendance. I stayed away from church for about 2 years, but I missed the community and the support so decided to give the church another chance. My husband and I met with the bishop and told him that we would come back to church, but there was one condition. He must not give us separate callings. I felt way too insecure at that point and really needed my husband to be with me during sacrament meeting and Sunday school. Well, within two weeks my husband was called to be a youth Sunday school teacher and I was called to be in the library. I was hurt and angry. Why was such a simple request not listened to? I had my husband talk to the bishopric and they said they felt inspired that these were the callings we needed. I reached out the bishop and told him I was not OK with this and requested my husband and I do the same calling, at least for a while. Again, I was told that the bishopric had prayed about it and this is what the Lord had told them. My husband made one last attempt to reason with these men, but they would not hear him. At that point, I knew I could no longer remain a member. The ecclesiastical abuse that started at the age of nine had to end at the age of 40. I sent my letter of resignation into church headquarter and it was sent back to the bishop who would not listen to me about a meaningless calling. He reached out to me and asked me why I was resigning. I gave him the list of abuses and told him that the church does not respect its members and I could no longer be affiliated with it for my own emotional health. He said he would need to work with the Stake Presidency on my request and would get back to me. A week later, I received a letter in the mail from him. He expressed how sorry he was for the abuses I had suffered and then in the next paragraph said that my decision to resign would result in my eternal blessings being revoked and that I would no longer have my eternal family. The next paragraph stated that he would process my request for resignation and that if I ever wanted to come back, the door was open. It was the final act of emotional and spiritual violence the church would perpetrate upon me again.

    While I still have a lot of work to do to overcome the horrible things that have happened to me, I am hopeful that the next 40 years of my life will be more peaceful and happy.

    1. Upon re-reading this, I apologize for the numerous spelling and grammatical errors. It was tough typing this through the numerous tears and intense emotions.

  80. I have a thousand little stories, but I’ll keep it to this one:

    I got an explicitly dirty note from a boy. It disturbed me and I didn’t want to tell my parents so I went to someone who I thought I could trust at church. She told me that if I was righteous, things like that wouldn’t happen. She encouraged me to project a sexless, “righteous” image.

    I was eleven. I didn’t even need a bra yet. She was a primary teacher.

    When I hit puberty I made myself attractive, but I never bothered to go for the full-blown, glamorous, sexy look. (Too fussy for me.) I was told regularly – until I got married at age 25 – that I was being unrighteous for not working hard enough to get married. Yep, even at age 14, I was already flunking out of celestial marriage because I went easy on the mascara.

    It’s impossible for women to win with this double-edged sword.

  81. I was raised in an interfaith family. My mother took my brother and myself to church. My father has never been a member of the church.

    Growing up, if we felt we needed a blessing, we would have to call a home teacher. Our home teachers were usually acquaintances. Someone who would show up every couple of months, but not anyone close to us. I think of how meaningful it would have been to have been blessed by my mother. She is full of integrity and faith. She taught me to stay close to God and to love all of His children. Although she doesn’t feel the need to hold the priesthood, it would have meant the world to me for her to have had it. I never really thought of priesthood blessings as sacred or something to be cherished. I was told that they were sacred, but they never felt that way. It was always given by someone who I didn’t know and who didn’t know me. I can’t imagine how different of an experience it would have been if the woman who taught me of God’s infinite love and concern for me had been allowed to lay her hands on my head.

  82. I learned how to put on makeup, sew and make cinnamon rolls for wednesday night young womens. The young men did scouts and all 6 of my brothers got their eagle scout award. I got to eat cinnamon rolls sometimes.

  83. I grew up in a very abusive home – physically, mentally, emotionally, even spiritually. My father was a very manipulative and selfish man who kept us intentionally in poverty, moved us all across Western Canada (we would move 1-2 times per year), kept us disconnected from extended family or from building close friendships, and was extremely controlling of our every move (my mother, myself, and my siblings). In my parents early years of marriage, my father battled substance abuse. My mother, a devout member of the church, always sought her priesthood leadership for counsel and guidance in regards to my father. From a very young age I remember many of the meetings with new Bishops where my mother would explain the severity of the situation to her new Bishop and ask for a blessing for guidance as to what to do. EVERY SINGLE TIME her Bishop would bless her and counsel her to pray for my father and be patient, just keep praying for him.

    The years went by, the abuse continued and only escalated as us kids became teenagers. Bishops again and again would continue to give my mother the same counsel – just keep praying for him and be patient. “Please soften my father’s heart and help him learn to ease his anger through Christ” became just as common as “please bless this food” in our family prayers (my father was a long haul trucker and would be away for periods of time where we could include this in our prayer without his knowledge).

    As I came into my preteens, I recognized that my mother and siblings feared my father too much to stand up to him, so I took it upon myself to be the scapegoat and fight back – this resulted in most of the abuse coming my way. I repeatedly told school counselors and church leadership of what was going on (they were all LDS men); however, I received the same advice my mother always got – “eternal families were vital to God’s plan, every trial happens for a reason, to keep praying, and be patient.” My father continued to argue that I was merely a trouble-making child. He would constantly insist I see a counselor for my “problems” and “anger issues”… EVERY SINGLE COUNSELOR agreed there was nothing wrong with me and insist the family needed counseling as a whole. Every time that verdict was reached, my father would insist my mother find me a new counselor.

    By 16, I couldn’t stand the abuse anymore, so I moved out. A friend’s grandparents were minutely aware of the situation and were happy to take me in; however, my bishop convinced me that he could get my family the help it really needed if I moved in with him. I agreed, believing someone would finally help my mother and my siblings. Shortly after, my father started to blackmail me to move back home and started telling my Bishop that he had sought God’s help and was a “changed man” – the Bishop eventually pressured me to return home because it was “so important to maintain the family unit”. I agreed to return home on the condition that both my father and myself went to counseling. My Bishop agreed to the Church paying for a specialized psychologist a few hours away. We went a handful of times and then my father insisted the sessions were merely a “gang up on dad” fest and quit going.

    Obviously, by 18 I moved out and parted ways. The abuse continued more through manipulation and guilt-tripping as I was no longer living under the same roof as my dad. Through the years, my father being the “patriarch” of the family often gave him the upper hand, using it as a tool to say “my way goes” and often using our belief in the church and it’s structure to feel as though were were sinning by not abiding by my dad’s rule, regardless of how manipulative or abusive he was.

    Finally, by 21, against her Bishop’s counsel, my mother left my dad and filed for divorce, although, after 23 years of marriage, the majority of damage to myself, my mother, and siblings had already been done. My father stuck us kids in the middle of much of the divorce and often tried to confuse us against our mother. Finally, when the divorce was finalized, my father took off and hasn’t had anything to do with any of us kids since. A few years later while my grandmother was in the hospital, we saw my father for the first time in years, and his comment was “I don’t care either way if we (us kids and him) have a relationship or not, if you guys want one, then that’s fine” (Sooooooo tempting, right? … not!)

    A couple of years ago, I reconnected with my dad’s side of the family (he had always worked to sever the relationship between us). After hearing some stories from family members, I discovered that my father had been to prison before he met my mother. Upon further digging, I found out he had gone to prison for torturing an elderly couple in their home with his buddies for hours on end. They nearly killed the elderly man as he had a heart attack during the ordeal; however, he survived. Due to the nature of the crime, my father was psychoanalyzed and diagnosed with Anti Social Personality Disorder (ASPD) or commonly referred to as a sociopath/psychopath. Yes, you read that right, I discovered my father is a sociopath.

    Upon learning this, I did a LOT of research on the subject to try to understand what it meant. There are two things that really stood out to me – 1) a sociopath does not feel remorse/guilt and 2) there is NO cure or treatment.

    Obviously this revelation made me quite angry. I really struggled with believing church leaders could truly be inspired if they constantly used the Spirit to advise someone to be patient and pray for a sociopath instead of advising someone to escape the abuse and begin the healing process. Every single one of these leaders over the years placed the importance of “eternal families” over the well-being of an innocent woman and her four children. How could that possibly be of God? This obviously led to my complete distrust of Church leadership.

    After a few years of stepping away and working through the anger, I finally made it back into the Bishop’s office (new location, new ward, new Bishop). My first meeting with him was really long as I told him the whole story and explained many of the issues that I could not reconcile. I told him I was seeking understanding so that I could return to church at peace, faithfully. His response was that sometimes we don’t understand God’s plan and that everything happens for a reason. He explained that the church policies on abuse were always evolving and that at the end of the day, Church leaders were still just men and prone to mistakes. In the meeting, what he was saying seemed to make sense and I felt satisfied; however, not long after leaving, I realized, these are lines we are fed our wholes lives be the church to attempt at reconciling the awful mistakes that are made. As victims we are often made to feel as though our abuse was somehow God’s plan to make us stronger, or the person we are today and that is used to justify the poor judgement and complete failure on the Church’s part to help victims of abuse within its congregations. I found that when I did try to share my story, with members or the Bishop, they would always try to pull out the silver lining, as if there are benefits to being severely abused and that I should somehow be grateful. The community that should have had my back (and family’s) completely and utterly failed me. Every leader or member that knew what was going on and never called social services, or the police, or continued to place “family sealings” and “eternal marriages” over the well-being, safety, and care of my mother and us children completely failed us. It didn’t matter how many camping trips we went on, or how many people baked us squares or invited us to outings, they all failed us because they feared defying the wisdom of the priesthood above them.

    After much thought and contemplation, I decided I was not satisfied participating in an organization that would not openly discuss its flaws, own its mistakes, or insist victims push aside the hurt and make cake out of instances where they were wronged and failed by the church. I didn’t want to be part of an organization that intentionally caused harm and condoned abuse in the name of God and Eternity. I did not want to be part of an organization that placed the priesthood over my mother’s intuition, tears, and heartbreak. I didn’t want to be part of an organization where men who are “inspired” cause such detrimental and life-altering mistakes and don’t have to answer for them. Needless to say, I have not returned to the church since my last discussion with my latest Bishop.

    I could go on with more specific instances, but this is getting a little lengthy, so I’ll call it quits.

  84. My ex and I had been planning for a while to move to a new area. One day he came home from a visit to his parents and just said, ‘oh, we won’t be moving to that place anymore’. When I pressed him to tell me why he said that his father had found out and had counseled him we not to move. I proceeded to ask why his fathers opinion should change our plans without even considering what I wanted. The response was: He’s my father, he’s my priesthood authority as I am to you. It’s just like Lehi and Nephi. Nephi was married and had a family but he still counseled with his father.” …End of story, he didn’t care for my thoughts on the matter.

    His family were from the start incredibly intrusive to our marriage and an extremely significant reason to our divorce – well his parents openly encouraged it cause I had health problems. His dad was our former Stake Pres and CES coordinator, 100% Mormon, no mercy type. They expected him to give regular accounts to them of our marriage. Finally he couldn’t handle the pressure and cut ties with them, the church, and me as he tried to establish a whole new life. We have never stopped caring for each other, and although we’re in different stages in our lives I see that the way he was raised in an ultra-orthodox family was extremely damaging to him and our marriage.

    Had I become pregnant during our marriage I would not have been able to pursue my university education which is something I had dreamed of for years and even encouraged by my mum. His parents were against it for a long time always giving clues about how other women in the ward stayed at home preparing themselves to be mothers. For 6 months I was forced to not go to university and if it wasn’t for my childless circumstances I never would have persuaded him to let me go back to university and complete my degree after we married.

  85. When I was 10 years old, I was molested by my mother’s father who was a bishop at the time. He had told me I had to keep it a secret, so I never told a single soul. After the molesting had happened (for me it was a one time occurrence) he and his wife went on a mission. So much for spirit of discernment, huh? Anyways, years of depression and self harm followed the incident, including a suicide attempt and hospitalization in high school.

    When I was 18, he was arrested and put in prison because he’d molested a few of my female cousins (who were ages 4-12) and they had enough courage to come forward to their parents (my aunt and uncle). It was at this time that I told my parents that I too, had experienced the same thing years before. My years of depression finally made sense to them, but they were torn up over knowing that someone so close to our family had done this to me and caused me so much pain for years on end.

    My mother flew out to visit me at college the day after I told her about this. She encouraged me to go to my bishop at BYU to tell him about what had happened to me as a child. She, lovingly, thought that he would be able to offer comfort and some spiritual guidance so that I could begin to heal.

    She was so wrong (not intentionally). The first thing the bishop said to me, after I explained my purpose in meeting with him, was:

    “Do you ever orgasm to the memory?” And other extremely inappropriate questions that could in NO way be construed as “just trying to understand my situation”. I was sickened. He told me to read “The Miracle of Forgiveness” and told me the old quote something along the lines of “it’s better to die than to be sexually abused and therefore unclean” or whatever it is.

  86. Our family left the church within the past year. We were very active members up until the day we left. This was PART of the letter we gave the leaders over us.
    partial Letter:
    We would like to inform you that we no longer wish to participate in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. We say this without animosity and with thanks to each of you for your service to our family and the community.
    The unraveling of one’s worldview, 40 years in the making, is complicated. There are many doctrinal, historical, and personal reasons for leaving. However, we believe at least one issue is so fundamental to our difference with the church as to provide a sufficient explanation of our decision. The Church rests on a foundation of restoration, revelation, and priesthood. For us, these principles are so marred as to render them useless by the 60 year practice of polygamy beginning under the command of the Prophet Joseph. We cannot participate in an organization which would systematically undermine the value of women. The pairing of multiple women (frequently just girls in their mid-teens) to older, more powerful men is a gross affront to human equality. A study of the effects polygamy has on women as practiced by multiple cultures across the world (including current forms besides the historical Mormon polygamy) leads one to see that it is damaging to women in similar ways as other patriarchal forms of abuse including bride-price / dowries, patrilocality, denying females education and work, and “protecting” their virginity by making them captives in their own homes, or garb, or through genital mutilation, etc. We are aware that some of the Mormon women of polygamy were outspoken advocates of “the principle”, but a study of other accounts demonstrates that women were predominantly left to fend for themselves in an emotional and literal desert. We are also familiar with the casual excuses passed on through the years which help us all keep such quandries “on the shelf”. However, we would posit that “the shelf” is no place for systematic abuse to humans. Also on that shelf are the volumes depicting the complicity of nations, churches and individuals to 12.5 million Africans made slaves in this country, the systematic torture and murder of 6 million Jews in Europe, the blatant genocide of 1 million Tutsi in Rwanda in the spring of 1994, etc., etc.
    What is interesting is that we have been able to keep such issues on the shelf so long. However, the church is becoming more honest about it’s history (largely through unannounced essays in the gospel topics section of lds.org) and LDS scholarship has revealed many things such that one need never consult anti-mormon literature or “go looking for problems” to come across such dissonant information. Perhaps that is partly why we suddenly take issue with something about which we have known of for a long time. However, that would not be acknowledging that our current position also originated personally, in a way we deeply felt. As we seemed to dead-end the benefit our marriage could reap from the church-prescribed roles we focused on (just serve, pray, study, temple harder), we began the real work of developing intimacy. During that process, we realized that such roles can significantly contribute to gaping, painful holes, especially in women. More subtle and less subversive than polygamy, current practice in the church still hobbles women. The “gender gap” in mathematics, a well substantiated phenomenon in which males tend to outscore females on objective mathematics tests, can be completely overcome by tiny interventions which remind females they are as capable as men (for example an introduction in which the test is described as having been written to remove gender bias– when in fact the test had not been altered and females simply do better because they believe they can). The measurable gender gap in mathematics is created through subtle cues students receive from teachers and others in society that hint that males are more adept in that area. What then do you think the effect of years of training is to a girl who grows up with a heritage of polygamy; an image in which self-worth is always associated with self-sacrifice (a tidy illustration from the Mormon Channel); a young women’s program that overemphasizes modesty, marriage, and motherhood; covenanting to submit to the law of her husband; observing that decisions ultimately belong to someone else (father, husband, bishop, prophet…always a male); or walking into a classroom of church history filled with posters of important people of the restoration…and not one is female?

  87. My ex-stepfather was physical and sexually abusing my mother and us (her children). I tried to tell my bishop and stake president about the physical abuse, I was told that the problems in our home were because I was not obedient enough. My mother got the same BS and she went along with it, too. I couldn’t even bring myself to tell them about the sexual abuse due to the shame and their outright dismissal of other concerns. They went to the abuser with my report and the violence increased. I learned to quit talking about it because every time I did he found out about it and I got hurt worse. It wasn’t until my LDS mission when I was having two or three nervous breakdowns a day that I started to address the shaming indoctrination I had drummed into my head for most of my life.

  88. I was sexually abused as a kid and from then on I was a licked cupcake and that it would have been better if I’d died. And I believed that. I left the church because I was tired of the weekly reinforcement of my worthlessness because I was thinking about suicide. I am the only sibling to leave the church and they hear that message too every week. I want to know if they think I should have died but am scared of the answer. What if they follow the prophet and say yes? I’m already on the outside.

  89. I grew up in a loving, temple going Mormon Family. As hard as they tried to “teach me right,” I still CLEARLY learned the following things:
    1. Men can’t control their sexual desires, only women can.
    2. What I wear could cause a man to sin–therefore I am at fault for his sin.
    3. I should get a college education–as a back-up plan in case my husband dies.
    4. Men serve the Lord by being missionaries, holding the priesthood, and holding leadership callings. Women serve the Lord by serving the men and the children.
    5. My only way to salvation is through men.
    6. The greatest thing a woman can do is bear children. Anything else is secondary to this calling. In other words “Your body dictates your salvation.”–even in the afterlife.
    7. Women homemake, men make money.
    8. Women are submissive. They can express their views, but in the end, the man makes the decision.
    9. Women should feel happy to be serving in the background with recognition on Mother’s Day each year.
    10. In the afterlife, I can receive the fullness of the priesthood–but my husband gets to run the show on our shiny new earth.
    11. This may seem unfair, but it is part of the trial of woman (thanks to Eve) and God does this out of love.

    In short, I learned that men are better then women. It took me 30 years to realize differently. In that time, a great deal of damage was done. You cannot say “different callings in life” and somehow make men and women equal.

  90. I’m posting on mobile, so please forgive any errors.

    I come from a broken home. My mother was a strong feminist. My father was not. He wasn’t sexist, he just didn’t care. My mom left the church when she left my dad. My dad stayed strong, even though he clearly had his doubts. When I was growing up, I was physically and sexually abused a few times. Never anything too serious, but enough. At one point, after reporting the kid at my school who grabbed my breasts, I was asked if I liked it and that’s why I waited 24 hours to report.

    I became wary of men and the bishop of my fathers ward was kind enough to talk to me and help me understand what was going on. I still respect and love him for that. My home teacher, on the other hand, let me know I was filthy and would touch me inappropriately. To remind me that while his touching would make me worthless, he was unscathed. Because I was asking for it. One day, I had had enough. He was speaking to my father through my open car window and tried to reach his hand in to touch me discreetly while he talked to my dad. I panicked, sick of it, and rolled the automatic window up. I stopped before I injured him, but it brought to my dads attention exactly where his hand had been.

    My dad was furious with me for not obeying a priesthood holder and forced me to repent to the new bishop, who informed me that I was dirty and that my home teacher was just trying to keep me clean. I left that home the moment I turned 18, left that church and was happy when my home teacher moved away too. He was never brought to justice because he held the priesthood and was just trying to help me through my rough patches of being molested by others by molesting me to purify where others had molested me.

  91. When I was 16 and 17 years old my older brother molested me while I was asleep. I was a faithful member of the church at the time. The first time I assumed it was an accident. The second time I was in college and went to Oregon visiting family for Christmas. I woke up in the middle of the night to his hands on my body. I laid on the bed still from shock, pretending to be asleep, and trying to comprehend what was happening. I returned to BYU-Idaho and told a bishop there. He gave me The Miracle of Forgiveness and a list of things I should do to ‘repent.’

    My brother confessed to the bishop. My parents found out and my mother flew out to see me. She prayed that I could “heal” and “forgive.” My brother ‘repented” and served an LDS mission. He’s currently at BYU-Idaho. I’ve left the church after discovering the historical issues, LDS anti-women views, and deciding my beliefs didn’t align.

    I was a freshman in college, but I was still a minor legally. And, I was told not to see counseling or report the issue to the police. “Let the church handle it.”

    I’ve since reported him, and the d.a. won’t be pressing charges.

    I should’ve had someone fighting for me. Instead, I had people trying to keep me quiet.

  92. I come from a long line of church leadership. Both my grandfathers were bishops, my father was District President, served in a Stake Presidency and was a Stake President. My mother served as primary, RS, and YW president multiple times. I was primary president twice…Then I had a daughter. I started opening my eyes to the rhetoric around gender roles and how much I heard from the men around me what mine and my daughters roles are. I started a graduate program and realized that I can advance as far as my ambition and work ethic will carry me in my career. But in the church, I’m stuck as a second class citizen. My daughter looks up on the stand and only sees men, she is passed the sacrament by men, she is given blessings by men – while her mother looks on. I tried participating in OW, but the church’s reaction was so abhorrent that I gave up. I’m done. And my relationship with my mother is gone because not only does the church tell women who they “should” be, it punishes women who disagree. So I sit here as my relationship with my mother crumbles because women who speak up are so vilified that she knows nothing but fear and loathing for those who do.

  93. Babies were not for me. I knew it from a very, very young age. I was offended in fact when someone gave me a ‘baby’ doll. I liked dinosaurs, paint, and books. Not babies. I knew motherhood wasn’t my gig.

    When I started grade school, I realized how much I loved to learn. I excelled at school – in fact I graduated with honors from college several years ago with a 4.0 in journalism and women studies. But not once did I received encouragement from church leaders to be self-confident, apply myself in school or simply ‘follow’ my dreams. While occupational dreams changed in details along the way, the end goal was always to do something I love while making a difference. I’m proud to say I’m doing that today. But getting there over church hurdles made it sort of a miracle I’m here.

    Remembering young women lessons makes me want to vomit, but that is where things really started to go downhill. One such lesson included making a list of traits I wanted in a future husband. I was 14 and was sure I wouldn’t be getting married until I was 50. Another such lesson was why being a mother was my real eternal job, and it was in fact just as good as having the priesthood. And I don’t even need to explain ‘modesty’ lessons, as they are quite synonymous in the church for women.

    I dutifully went to church, but shoved all of this stuff in a little bag in the back of my brain. Nobody was going to stop me from graduating college, having a career, and NOT having babies. I would not be forced into something against my will. And while I was able to shove some of these things into my bag, there were a few that fell out.

    Being self-confident as an independent women as I wanted and tried to be, was not promoted by church literature, or the women in my life. I was supposed to be polite, submissive and dutiful. Inside I was seething, and whenever I pulled an independent women kind of move (like speaking my mind), my culture stifled me. I started to internalize the possibility this was going to be a real fight, and developed depression in the 10th grade. I started to become very self-conscious about my changing body. Let’s just say I sort of had a Jenny on the Block hips and booty thing going on, and I had no desire to dress like a nun. Prude or slut. Couldn’t win. I had bouts of anorexia which exploded at 19 when I got to 100 pounds and really was just ready to die so I wouldn’t have to have babies, wear garments, and go to the temple (which I was horrified by during my first visit).

    I saw boys my age being encouraged to heartily pursue educational and career goals. But the smartest girls I knew went to BYU Idaho and were all married with children in a few years of graduating. Some didn’t graduate, some did, but not in the fields they had wanted when they were young. Most today don’t work and certainly don’t have a career.

    But I ran. I ran to the only place I knew to run to – academics. I went to Idaho State University. I loved it more than I could have guessed. Ironically, I met my husband in Institute class (although I asked HIM out) and we married at 19. Please NEVER let your children do this BTW.

    I told him the deal was I wasn’t having babies, I was graduating and working where I please. After some worried looks, he said ok. The wedding reception was hellish. I can’t count the number of old guys I didn’t even know told me my greatest joy in life would be to have babies. My insides boiled.

    In 2008 we transferred to Utah State U. so I could go to a better program. Here my life really began to change.

    I sort of recovered from the eating disorder (you don’t ever exactly fully recover….), but I was more horrified of church patriarchy by then because I realized that I would never shake the expectation and social pressure to have kids and stay at home. And I HATED garments. If I didn’t dress like a nun, they were hanging out. The self-consciousness they create isn’t healthy for women. I was so miserable. I felt like I was wearing long underwear meant for people living in the Arctic.

    During my classes I started to learn about the systematic sexism in America, and had a real aha moment. I signed up for a women and gender studies minor. My mind was blown at the way I had ignored or justified sexism in my own life from the church patriarchy. Being self-confident didn’t make me evil, nor did wanting to have control over my own body.

    I started skipping church, and wouldn’t accept a visiting teaching assignment. And the patriarchy started coming after me. My dad. My husband. My bishop. Gag. I’d spend relief society bawling in the church bathroom.

    We left our young married ward when we moved to a regular family ward. I quit going altogether as I started to have other doubts about the church. My husband began to be inactive also. But the damn bishop and priesthood people wouldn’t leave us alone. Finally, I told my parents I wasn’t ever going to church anymore. My dad told me I broke his heart. I died a little inside.

    My husband took another year and a half to realize he wasn’t going to church anymore either. But that was a difficult time for us both. Today we are happy and out of the church, and I know I don’t have to have babies to be a ‘whole’ women. I love my job, and my husband who is also feeling whole despite not being a priesthood holder. But things still linger. Remnants of body image issues. Self-confidence issues. The damn perfectionism the church ingrained into me. This summer, I was diagnosed with PTSD from my experiences in the church and the difficult leaving process. Thanks patriarchy.

    1. Oh how I identify with this. What kills me is that we’ve gotten so twisted up in social construction that we believe that just because a person CAN do something it means that they OUGHT to do something. I’ve had men tell me that I am SUPPOSED to have children because I am a woman, with a womb, and ergo God expected me to produce. I tell them that God also made creatures that eat their partner after sex, and I ask if I am meant to do that as well. Nature has nothing to do with it, Nature, biology, all it does is tell you what is physically POSSIBLE to do. Humans are the ones who step in and then tell you what you OUGHT to do. But God forbid you try and have decent conversation about any of this, lest you be labeled a “man eater” or “feminist”. The same kind of woman that is causing the demise of the family and ultimately the break down of civilized society as we know it.

  94. This is a mission story. I served in Cape Town South Africa but that doesn’t really matter because I’m positive thousands who have served in other parts of the world could share these same experiences.

    In many ways I am ashamed of the way I acted as a missionary. I was in leadership positions over sister missionaries and I can recall countless times when I laughed with my fellow Elders about how difficult it was to have to “keep watch” over the sisters. We had to call them each night to make sure they were home safe. We did not have to call the Elders. We had to escort them around town; often they were assigned to a specific companionship to be driven to and from their proselyting areas. Women could not be district leaders and therefore could not have a car. Many of the sisters in my mission were from other countries in Africa. Some were just a few years older than us but many were several years older, including one sister in her retirement years. She too, was assigned to a nineteen or twenty year old boy to be looked after. She was South African and had fought for human rights in that country, but she could not go to bed at night without a phone call from a pimply-faced American.

    Even more difficult to look back on (and this was not very long ago) was the commission from our Mission President to no longer teach unmarried women. These may not have been his words but they are the ones that echo in my mind, “They are useless to the building up of the kingdom in South Africa.” I can’t recall how many doors I walked passed because a young, single mother was the only one home tending her children. Their fathers were busy drinking. They would come around only once the kids were in bed and they could get what they wanted before leaving again. But it was these drunkards whom our Mission President wanted in the Church, because they could hold the priesthood and could become leaders. At the time I didn’t have the wherewithal to ask, What Would Jesus Do? Christ, I hope he wouldn’t have kept walking.

    It was okay to teach women if they were married, but, as the Mission President put it, “we are looking for father-led households.” Again, forget about the woman, she cannot help.

    My mission taught me that women are useless in the LDS Church. We men keep them around simply to have our babies and to keep the other women occupied while we meet to discuss the affairs of the Church. This is what I was taught. This is what I will not teach my children.

    1. I didn’t realize until I reread my post that I had capitalized “Elders” and not “sisters”. The LDS Church is going to get me sent to hell. And my mother thinks there is no language bias in the Church!!!

  95. I was born into the Church and am 53 years old. I haven’t been an active member since 2010 when I went through a divorce of my 23 year temple marriage. I had discovered after 12 yrs into my marriage that my husband was leading a double life and was addicted to pornography and masturbation. For the next 11 yrs, I struggled as he promised to give that up. We had countless meetings with bishops who gave him a slap on the wrist, gave me books on how to better please my husband and one told me ‘Sister **** it could be worse’. It was taking a toll on my physical, mental and spiritual health living a married life so counter to the ‘happy family’ the church teaches. So I made the heartbreaking decision after so many years of lies and broken promises to end my marriage. In seeking counsel about whether I was making the right decision, my bishop told me ‘this might be Bro. **** only way to redeem himself’ and I thought well great..my family ( we have 2 kids now 21 and 23) is torn apart but the Bishop is saying its ok because my husband might be all the better for it. I had not been able to return to church. I didn’t feel very loved or supported by these ‘men of God’. It was so painful.

    When I saw the news headline ‘Mormon Church admits Joseph Smith had 40 wives’ several weeks ago, it was the first time I ever allowed myself to look at church history. I actually found mormonstories after seeing your interview with Jeremy Runnels on his CES letter website. Both of these resources have helped me tremendously to relieve the anguish and guilt I felt for not being ‘active’ in the church. John, thank you and keep up the good work. It is changing lives.

  96. Why It’s Hard to be a Woman in The Church

    To be fair, and before I launch right in, this article could just as easily be called Why It’s Hard to be a Woman in the World. The history of womanhood seem fully ripe with repression, submission, and struggle. There are social norms that make demands, cultural norms that require compliance, and then there is the womans heart. Ever woman, and probably every human, has had a walk a fine line between what they have to do in order to be accepted and embraced by their tribe, and being their true and authentic self.
    That all being said, the Church presents it’s own set of unique requirements that often make it very hard for a woman to both follow her heart, and follow the powers that be. What makes it worse is when that authority abuses or misuses their power and a woman is forced to comply for the sake of obedience alone.
    I hope I can illustrate with a few personal examples.
    1. It’s hard to be woman who doesn’t want children
    I’ve never wanted children. Not when I was a little girl, not when I became a young woman, or a young adult, and not now that I am well into my 30’s. As a woman in the church I was always made to feel as though there was something fundamentally wrong with me for not wanting children. I remember speaking with a Bishop once about it, and he told he that not wanting children flew directly in the face of Gods Great and Eternal Plan. He told me that having children was the entire purpose for God creating Woman in the first place.
    “If God didn’t intend for babies to be born of a woman, then there wouldn’t be women period.”
    He then went on to tell me that no worthy priesthood holding man would ever want a woman who didn’t want children.
    Not once during that entire conversation did he attempt to understand me or hear my reasons for why I didn’t want to be a mother. He told me that only selfish women obsessed with castrating men in the work place wouldn’t want children. He told me that the whole reason that the world is falling apart id because of “those feminist” (though feminist was said more like a swear word) are directly responsible for the whole world going to crap.
    As I sat I was thinking…Really? REALLY?? Not the terrorist, not the baby killers, the serial rapists, the drug cartel, the KKK??? No…FEMINIST…They are the REAL problem.
    I left that interview deflated and full of guilt and shame. When I prayed that night I asked God what was wrong with me? I asked Him why He made me so broken? At that moment I realized that even if I never wanted children, it wouldn’t matter because if I wanted to marry a worthy man, I would have to have them.
    Now That I can step back from this I realize how dangerous and ridiculous this belief is.
    2. It’s hard when your inspiration gets trumped by their authority
    Two quick stories:
    When I was in my early twenties I desperately wanted to go on a mission. I felt as though God was inspiring me, and calling me to action. With a full heart I made an appointment to speak to my bishop and get the ball rolling.
    Not quite.
    My bishop (different from the one mentioned above) informed me in more veiled words that missions were intended for ugly or unattractive women with little to no prospects of marriage, and not for young beautiful girls like me who had every opportunity in the world of landing a man.
    I was devastated, but at the same time, I trusted that the bishop held the keys of authority over me that gave him an extra measure of insight to Gods will that I wasn’t privy to. When I came home broken hearted and crestfallen, my mother confirmed this belief. She said that if the bishop didn’t think it was a good idea for me to go, that must mean it is because he was inspired to say so.
    Story #2
    Years ago I had a good friend who was deeply in love with me and wanted to marry me. I had informed him on several occasions that even though I loved him dearly, I was not in love with him. One day this friend came to me and told me that he had had a dream and a “spiritual confirmation” that he and I were to be married. When I told him that I hadn’t had any such dream or confirmation, he informed me that since he held the priesthood, he stood in a position of receiving revelation for both of us. He told me that God expected me to have faith enough to believe the revelation given to my friend. So it was a trial of my faith. To some it is given the revelation and to others it is given…well…nothing…but you are still expected to believe it.
    So I prayed about it. I didn’t want to marry him, but after all, who was I to question God? The answer I received was no answer and since the thought of marrying him made me ill, I told him no, but there was definitely a part of me that wondered if I had made the wrong choice, and if I was going to be punished for it.
    What this all really boils down to is the feeling, or fear, that you can’t trust yourself, or your own judgment, or mind, or heart, unless of course it falls in line with whatever male authority thinks as well. I know that this isn’t everyone’s experience, and I’m sure that there are probably women out there who never felt like they had to comply with anything they didn’t want to. For me, it was this weird mind trap of people telling me that I had my agency of course, and I could make whatever choice I wanted to, but at the same time I needed to be aware that if I made certain choices then God would be displeased with me, He might even without future blessings from me or deny me of His spirit. I think this is partly why I lived in constant fear of making choices that weren’t already made me for me. I was terrified of making the wrong choice, even over the most seemingly benign things. For me, it was the right choice or no choice at all.
    3. It’s hard when you have to guard and also be totally transparent about your sexuality
    Again, I don’t know how many will relate to this, I can only speak for me and my experience. I was raised to safe guard my sexuality. I was told not to touch myself, not to explore my body, not to “awaken” those passions that are only intended for marriage. I was told not to dress in a way that would excite boys, because apparently they have zero control over anything that has to do with their sex drive. I was told that I needed to stay attractive and appealing to men, but not to be so attractive or appealing that they would have a dirty thought about me or heaven forbid, attempt to engage sexually with me. I was told that masturbation was a sin, and I was taught that virtuous women didn’t do it, and men who did it were most likely addicted to porn. I was told that my virginity was directly tied to my value and worth in the eyes of God, and in the eyes of a man who would be considering me for marriage. I was told that if I were to mess around with a boy before marriage I would be doing actual damage to my very soul. I was told that sexual sin was next to murder…murder!!! Not robbing someone blind, or burning down their house, or castrating them as infants.
    I was told that once I was married I would be expected to perform every wifely “duty” that my husband required. I was told that it would be “uncharitable” to refuse my husband and his sexual needs. I was told that even if I didn’t want to have sex, I should have it anyway because I needed to put his needs above my own.
    I’m not saying that there is no value in any of that, or merit, but it’s the way it was presented. Very black and white, no room for discussing, just accept your role and deal with it.
    I think I could have been okay with all of that if I had been left to my own accountability, but unfortunately that was not the case. Any time I ever did anything with a boy that went beyond passionate kissing, I would feel as guilty as though I had just spit on the cross. I would have to go into the bishop, a man who was roughly the same age as my father (whom I was terrified of), who had ZERO psychiatric training or experience in mental health counseling, and explain in explicit detail my most intimate of experiences.
    Some bishops just wanted generalities … Did clothes come off? Did hands go under the clothing? , but some wanted to know every single little detail…Did you feel his erection? Did you orgasm? Did he? Were you aroused?
    I don’t know why they felt it requisite to ask such specific details, and I never asked. How could I? I was a 20 something child that didn’t know the first thing about my body or my sexuality. Did I orgasm? How should I know? Did he? I didn’t ask, how can you tell? Is that the criteria for formal disciplinary action? Does it list all of that in the bishops hand book? All I can think is that my gut is telling me that it is NOBODY’S business what I choose to do with my body, and what I choose to share with somebody I care about. All I wonder is if this old man is sitting behind his desk getting off on what I am saying. To be fair, some of them seemed more uncomfortable than I did to be talking about this all, but the majority seemed just fine with it.
    The “advice” that most of them would give after the fact was normally less encouraging. I was told analogies about used chewing gum, and used cars, and used whatever else, and how, if given the choice, that a good man is always going to want the brand new item. I was told that any boy who would engage in those activities with me pre-marriage in no uncertain terms respects me, or cares about me. What this did was made me resent boys for having sex drives, and it made me look down on them when they acted on them. In my mind, if a boy was truly converted to the gospel, he would never even look at me side ways. If he were truly a good man, then his love of the Savior would outweigh his sexual desires.
    As a side note to all of this. I did eventually grow up, fall in love, and pledge my life to a wonderful man, and guess what, sexuality isn’t just a light switch. You don’t go from repressed sexually to sex tiger at will. There are YEARS of sexual angst to work through, there are YEARS of programming telling you that what you are doing is dirty, and debased, and carnal, and not of God. But at the same time, that same programming is telling you that you have to do it, that you have to serve your husband sexually. So now, you are having sex, but you aren’t enjoying it. If the church were smart it would teach women how to cultivate and embrace their sexuality before marriage so that when the time finally came, it wasn’t a traumatic experience that they hated doing. My experience is that a man would rather have a women who wanted and enjoyed sex, rather than one that merely obliged him with it out of a sense of responsibility.
    I could certainly go on, which is sad, but I think I will leave at this for now. It’s hard enough being a woman in this world with its unrealistic expectations of beauty and success, but to heap on eternal expectations as well, and then adding the aspect of constantly having to default to the “priesthood” is enough to crush the spirit of any good woman just trying to do the right thing.

    1. Vignettes from my life.

      1. Growing up in an abusive home. My mother being counseled to “make it work,” and blamed by the bishop (who we found out-years later-was abusing his own family at the time.) Later, multiple members of the stake testified during the custody hearings, without so much personal knowledge of our home life, as priesthood loyalty.

      2. Growing up absolutely hating my body, for being female. I believed I was worthless. I felt responsible to cover up and “protect” men. The modestly lessons were so damaging. I had a neighborhood boy who touched me at age 6. I developed irrational fears about pregnancy and thought I was filthy, even though it wasn’t my fault. I didn’t overcome these issues until well into adulthood. I remember the licked cupcake and nails in boards analogies well. I internalized the “sin next to murder” lessons. I remember being mortified while confessing various mild indescretions to multiple bishops. I felt sure I was going to hell. I dressed in baggy, unattractive clothes. I actually spent my first two years after I started my period using toilet paper only, because I was so afraid to talk to anyone about my female body.

      3. My sister was sexually assaulted at age 18, while she was at BYU. She went to talk to her bishop about it. She was blamed. The boy never received any consequences, and went on a mission shortly after.

      4. Another BYU ward. A friend was raped by a stranger while walking home alone one day. The stake decided to host a “rape prevention” fireside. It was entirely focused on what the women should do differently. No one mentioned what the men could do. Then all the men stood up to sing to the ladies. It was meant to be supportive, but actually turned into victim blaming. I went to talk to the stake president about it. He didn’t understand why I was concerned.

  97. I’ve never experienced any of the things you have all experienced. I’m certainly not here to judge any of you or to make you feel like your pain and suffering was not real. As your stories attest, these circumstances have impacted you horribly. I am no perfect member of the church or holder of the Priesthood. I know exactly who keeps my life and house in order. It is my wife. I’m horrible at setting a good example. We watch rated R movies, cuss a little, drink a little coffee from time to time. Not everyday, but damn it’s good. Here’s the thing…I know the letter of the law. I know what I SHOULD do and furthermore know that if I WOULD do it I would be blessed. I also know that my personal relationship with God and my Savior is exactly that…personal.

    There are a lot of things I don’t know about the church or the gospel but the one thing I do know is that it is run by MEN. Imperfect, sinning, very human and mortal. They all make major mistakes and some will continue to make them and never fully repent and improve. Some will live their lives and never fully pay for their sins and in some cases CRIMES. I’ve seen people leave the church over the knowledge that some of these things could have been done by Joseph Smith, members of the 12 Apostles, Brigham Young and on and on and on.

    I don’t know what is fact or fiction in this regard as I’m sure there is an element of truth and lies to all of it. In the end…none of that matters to me. When I was going to serve my mission, I had not fully read the Book of Mormon. I finished it while in the MTC. I went to a room and prayed to ask if it was true. What I can tell you for sure is that my prayer was answered and I know it is true! It doesn’t matter to me what decisions Joseph Smith made, what Apostle slept with another’s wife or what my Bishop or ward members might say or do to offend me. It doesn’t change what happened to me on the day that I asked. Now I know not everyone’s testimony experience is as impacting as mine was but I think this becomes the CRITICAL issue in all of this. You have to know if it is true, you have to ask for yourself. If the book is true, so is the gospel. And although it may be run by imperfect, sinning mortal men. It is still His church and His gospel. The old Testament is still true even though the Prophet David slept with Bathsheba. He was still a Prophet of God, who just like Joseph Smith made a mistake. He may have made many mistakes, we have no idea.

    God has to rely on imperfect people to run his church here on earth. Some of those people are the very leaders and fathers that committed horrible acts of violence and sexual abuse that many of you have experienced. God will hold them accountable. I am blessed that I have a strong unwavering testimony of the Book of Mormon and I’m grateful for the experience I had that solidified it. However, just because I’ve had the experience doesn’t make me choose the right all the time. My laundry list of problems is as long as any one on here. One day I’ll have to answer for that but the same is true for Joseph Smith, Apostles, Stake Presidents, Bishops, Fathers, Mothers and anybody. Even the best of men and women with or without spiritual experiences still have to choose the right. There is a lot of evil in this world, some of it right here in the church. God can’t take away agency…it defeats the purpose of the plan.

    I have no answer for why these things have happened or why some men and women choose to do horrible things to each other. However, the Book is true

  98. I have had several experiences as well dealing with so called priesthood leaders. I was abused from age 2-11 by a family member. My sister was as well, even though I had no idea. She finally decided to go to the Bishop and tell him because my brother was getting ready for his mission, and she thought the bishop should know. After she said told him what had happened, and who had done it, his first reaction was “I’m so relieved he didn’t do anything with MY daughter”. (his daughter had dated off and on with my brother). My parents were horrified when they found out, and forbid me from ever telling anyone else for the rest of my life. It had to be a secret for fear of what it would make our family look like, and what it would do to our “name”. Another incident…I confessed to this stupid bishop we had at 16 about a boy that I messed around with, got the normal punishment, and went on my way. Another boy moved into the ward a month later, and decided to introduce himself to me. Not ten minutes into me meeting and talking to this boy for the first time in my life, that same bishop walked by and asked us both to come to his office. He then proceeded to lecture me about how if I had sex with him he wouldn’t be able to go on a mission, and I needed to help him stay worthy etc etc.. Nothing to this guy, just to me, and I was in charge of him staying worthy. He only did that because I had confessed a month earlier so he must have assumed i was a slut. The boy I messed around with at 16 started to verbally abuse me very severely every chance he got. Especially at church, and even in front of Bishops (his dad), and Sunday School leaders calling me whore, ugly nasty, etc. No one ever said a word. I had a Sunday school teacher call me to the front of the class on Sunday to call me names and humiliate me for being homeschooled. He would have me write things on the board and then point out anything he thought was wrong with it and tell the class how stupid I was and encourage them to laugh at me. He did that every Sunday. My own Father has always verbally abused me with disgusting sexual remarks directed at me. He called me sleazy when I was twelve for wearing shorts 2 inches above my knees. He pulled me into his lap once when I was an adult and married, and mentioned a giving him a lap dance. In vegas we were driving by one of those porn stands, and he said, “Hey look! There is “MP”!” CONSTANT remarks like that. He would hug me and wiggle his chest around on mine making sick noises…I could go on and on and on about remarks and things my Dad would say and do to me for my entire life. My husband and I left the church 6 months ago, but in our early years of marriage, he definitely “waxed strong” in his priesthood authority over me. I was never as smart as him, I wanted to go to school, and he told me to find a way to pay for it myself and I could. Well being a stay at home mom since 18, I had no experience to get a job that would pay for school and daycare for my kids. so basically no was the answer. I always got the feeling he thought he was better than me in every way possible. He stopped giving me blessings if I asked for the same ones regarding the same problem, he said I needed to get over those problems, and actually ask for a blessing that had to do with something else. The Lord wouldn’t help me if I didn’t try hard enough to over come the problems I kept asking him to give me blessings for. Thankfully he is not that man anymore. He knows what the church taught him to be as a priesthood holder, and he knows how sick it is. He feels terrible for all of those things, he knows they were so very wrong, and has not been that way for a long time now, and I love him for it immensely. I got really lucky there since I know most mormon men will never see the light in regards to their so called authority. Theses are a few of my stories….

  99. I was raped as a teenager. The years of guilt and being told no man would want me from the church and the standard of perfection shaming led me into a life of promiscuity, as is common for young rape victims. I went to the bishop for my “court of love”. An intense interview by a panel of 5 men. All who asked me highly innapropriate and terrifying questions regarding my sexuality. I had to meet with my bishop weekly. After I was “forgiven”, I later developed a loving relationship with my boyfriend and we had messed up a few times, as most 21 year olds do. Again with the courts and innapropriate questions.

    I later met my husband, a returned missionary virgin. I was then temple worthy and we married in the temple. It was not without hardship. Prior to marraige my fiancé regularly slut- shamed me, forcing me to beg his forgiveness and repent to him for things I did as a young adult. He was promised a “virtuous woman” in his patriarchal blessing and I wasn’t it.

    He was a good husband but the emotional abuse I inflicted by the church and him created a horrific sex life. One that he waited for his entire life, and one I had hope to enjoy purely. The undertones of fear and guilt and the “God is watching” made sex unbearable for both of us.

    10 years later, after three children an being told by my church leaders to drop out of college so that I could be a stay at home mom and put my husband through school, we discovered the sham of the church and that our whole lives were a lie.

    My husband realize out marraige was based on a religious fraud and wanted a divorce as he went through his faith crisis. Being the perfect Mormon boy virgin, realizing he never got to experience what real dating or life as a young man should have been about, discovery. We we commanded to marry young, have lots of babies immediately, “even if you cant afford them”. The risk of not being obediant was terrifying. The church took all of our money and time. Even when my husband lost his job and we were full tithe payers, even when he was a struggling college student trying to a support a family, we paid a full tithe because we had to, or the eternal consequence of losing everything was too great. The panic and fear I always had for not feeling good enough and for constantly being poor and struggling to make ends meet while paying a full tithe was awful. The church did almost nothing to help us ever, even when my husband lost his job for 6 months.

    Now, I’m a struggling single mother of three, going through a tragic divorce and unable to support my family. On the verge of homelessness and unable to find a job with health benefits with a livable income because I did EVERYTHING the church asked of me to do. We gave all of our money to the church and have no savings, I gave all of my time to the church as primary, relief society and young women’s teachers. Now that I’ve left the church, I’ve been disowned by my entire social circle and anyone who could back my work up through references for enployment.

    I hate the church and how it destroyed me and my family. It has even hurt my children when they found out they had also ben lied to. My entire life was based on a lie and I am only now able to pick up the pieces.

  100. When I was about 23, I dated a boy for about a month and then he proposed. I thought it was a bad idea because although I liked him as a person and we had a good time, there were lots of signs that we might be a poor match long-term. I wanted to get to know each other more before we had the discussion.

    He vented to some people in the ward about how I was “stubborn.” (That made the “let’s see” go to a straight “no.”) Lots of people gave me their unsolicited opinion that I wasn’t allowed to make major life decisions for myself. It was suggested more than once that it was Satan telling me that I could have an opinion in the matter. That drove home how little autonomy women are supposed to have in the church.

    The negativity was so bad I told the bishop that I was ready to leave the church. He gave me lots of encouragement and said I needed to have the kind of marriage *I* wanted. Some of the people who were hounding me backed off when they heard that. Apparently the bishop could make that decision for me, but I lacked the capacity to make that kind of a decision.

    1. Another quick thought. Church patriarchy taught me that my main purpose in life was to nurture and care for others. I was taught that their needs should always come before my own. And I bought it.

      I struggled for years to verbalize and advocate for my own needs. (Honestly, I still do.) I couldn’t say “no” to people, even when it started to destroy my physical and emotional health.

      I learned to self-harm. I started cutting myself, and didn’t understand why.

      After years of therapy, I realized that self-harm was the only way I knew to say “no.” I had to get hurt, and punish myself for my “selfishness.” It was the only way I knew to show that the constant self-sacrifice was hurting me. Perversely, cutting myself gave me permission to take care of my own wounds. Yes, I realize how pathological that sounds.

      1. This is also my story. I think if the church leadership ever cared, they would open their eyes and see how common this actually is.

        I hope you are coping well. The scars remain, unfortunately.

  101. I grew up in a great mormon family. I was fiery and smart and involved in a lot of things. But the message of Young Women’s came through loud and clear. And when, as valedictorian, I was also named as “most likely to succeed” I remember thinking, “Oh, they really should have given that to someone else. I am just going to be a mom.” I graduated from college and got married to a wonderful man, who, like my own father, was not too patriarchal. My heart broke a little when I first went to the temple but since, in my own life, I felt like an equal I dealt with it. One day my new husband and I went to the temple to do temple sealings. We were in the sealing room with three other young couples and the temple sealer. After our little sealing session was over, I sat there with my husband, holding his hand. The sealer then said, “Now the women will tidy up the room.” It felt like a punch to the gut. I was mortified. I didn’t know what to do but felt like I had to obey. So I stood up and straightened a doily that didn’t need to be straightened while the men just sat there. It was humiliating. There are so many devastating stories being shared, that I am sorry to add something so trivial. But for me, it did not feel trivial. I I felt violated. It was the first time I had been made to feel like a servant to men. That I existed to serve them. And that I was powerless to stop it. I remember thinking later about the event and deciding that I felt more violated in that moment than I did when I was groped on a crowded bus. My goal is for men and women everywhere to straighten those damn doilies TOGETHER! 😉

  102. During my temple recommend interviews before my wedding, both my bishop and stake president counseled me in separate interviews (is this in the handbook?) to not withold sex from my soon-to-be-husband as punishment for a disagreement. I, being sexually inexperienced saw this as totally valid advice. of course, I found out after we were married and during our little tiffs how truly horrible it is to have intimate relations with someone you are angry at. My wonderful husband would never force himself on me, but on occasions he did reach out when I was still seething from some argument, I felt morally obligated to oblige. I was already very disatisfied with sex in general. My husband wanted me to be just as sexually satisfied as he was and for many years we worked to make that happen.

    I realized that I had grown up with this idea that sex was a man’s game. That I was keeping myself modest, virginal, attractive, thin and finally, after marriage, sexual for him and him alone. That i wasn’t a sexual being like he was. I became someone solely to be looked at when I was taught that modest is hottest. I learned that the most important thing for me to become was a mother. In order to do that I must marry! In order to do that I must make myself beautiful and desirable. And, of course, I would not be desirable if I was sexual. Then I had to turn a switch overnight and be sexual AND desirable at the same time. It was so very confusing.

    And now that I look back on it, I see that it was all very male-centric. That these teachings all came through a male lense. I have benefitted so much from listening to my inner voice as opposed to those of my male leaders.

    Of course, once your eyes are opened to the patriarchy in one sense, it’s so much easier to see male-dominance in another sphere. I began to look at the scriptures, our curriculum and our conferences and saw the lack of female voice or story. I realized why I have a hard time relating to key figures in our gospel – they are all men! And honestly, i don’t want to become a heavenly mother if I bear billions of spirit children and none of them turn to me when they need help or just to talk, or even think about me!

    The other day my mother told me that we have much better lives as members of the church because we have the answers. I told her I have so many questions that no one has been able to answer. Why can only men hold the priesthood? Why can I not pray to my Heavenly Mother? Why don’t we know anything about her? Will my husband have other wives in heaven? Why in the temple do I covenent with my husband while he covenants with God? The answer my bishop has given me to all of these questions is : “we don’t know.” Unfortunately, these questions are the ones most important to me.

    Lastly, I will never be able to accept the idea that Priesthood and all that it entails is equal to motherhood. Fatherhood is equal to motherhood and should be treated as such.

    1. I have a lot of the same questions. I’m really confused and angry because I can see that men have enslaved women through sex and childbirth for centuries. Physical, emotional and financial enslavement. In every culture in every time period. And the church didn’t stand up for that and change it?

  103. When I was a small girl, my dad was bishop. At church he sat on the stand and everyone admired him. At home, he had an explosive temper.

    My parents separated when I was 11 and my mom was emotionally very vulnerable. The bishop of the ward assigned himself to be my family’s home teacher. The man had no respect for personal boundaries. He would walk in our front door without knocking. He touched me inappropriately. He would pin me to the ground and tickle me. I would beg him to stop, but he told me that I liked it because I was laughing. He would also force me to sit on his lap and or he would sit next to me and squeezed my thighs. My mom felt uncomfortable with this, but she was afraid to confront him about it, and she still feels guilty for not doing anything. As a home teacher, he rarely presented the First Presidency’s Ensign message. He would usually prepare a lesson that singled out a family member and use scripture to condemn them. I was a teenager at the time and he liked to compare me to Laman and Lemuel. When I got upset about one of his lessons, he told me that God was angry at me for “stirring up contention.”

    Still, I was a squeaky clean, good Mormon girl. I was afraid that God would abandon me if I messed up, so I did everything I could to stay on God’s good side (scriptures, seminary, keeping the ‘commandments’). When I was 24 and engaged to my husband, I went to my stake president to get a temple recommend to get married. He told me that he needed to ask me some questions about my compliance with the law of chastity. He told me that “it was for my own good,” so that I would know for myself that I was “worthy.” Then he asked me a long list of probing and specific questions about my sexual behavior. Though I hadn’t technically done anything to violate the “law of chastity,” I felt dirty and unsettled.

    After I was married, I noticed a huge discrepancy in the way I was treated and the way my husband was treated. It hurt. Whenever I tried to bring it up with bishops, visiting teachers, or family members, my perceptions were quickly dismissed as immaturity or spiritual failing. I learned to put on a happy face and not say anything because I knew that feeling that way meant getting judged. When Kate Kelly was excommunicated, it confirmed my worst fear, that if I told people what I really thought and felt I would be rejected. In a moment of despair, I went to my bishop to tell him how much I felt hurt by the gender inequality and how I sympathized with Kate Kelly. Instead of offering me love and support, he took my temple recommend away for “agreeing with a group or individual whose teachings or practices are contrary to or oppose those accepted by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.”

  104. i wish I didn’t have to remain anonymous, but for now I do. When I was baptized as a convert at age 20, I was dating someone who was not a member of the church. My bishop called him in and told him he wasn’t good enough to date me because he wasn’t a member of the church. I made a mistake and had to go visit my bishop about it, or so I thought I did, and he revoked my limited-use recommend. He told me that my mistake couldn’t have possibly stemmed from years of abuse or disordered thinking that needed to be assessed, but instead that it was because I was broken. I couldn’t participate in class or offer prayers at church. I had to meet with him privately weekly. I was afraid to be alone with most men because of the past abuse, so it was terrifying and he didn’t seem to care. I had to recount everything that happened with graphic details to a relative stranger behind a desk in a cold office. He asked me specific questions that made me feel dirty for having to answer them. It was awful. He told me that the whores spoken of in the scriptures were how I should feel and then made me read the miracle of forgiveness before I could be forgiven. It was horrible. I was so new to the church, and after this I felt so afraid to ever mess up because I feared I would have my blessings taken away like I did when this happened. Even though this all stemmed from my past that I was still trying to figure out.
    Fast forward to now: my husband has left the church and my bishop has told me that I am to police him and that I will be reassigned to someone righteous in eternity instead… This is damaging. We were serving a mission when my husband left the church, and I wasn’t allowed to serve anymore becaue my husband was no longer faithful, but they never told me they were releasing me. They told my husband to “pass that along.” This came on the heels of having our new baby, who I have been asked to breastfeed in the mothers room so people don’t have to see it because it is like pornography. And it could be the cause for relapse for men who are struggling in our ward/stake.

    What kind of message is this sending? The same one I have heard this whole time from the hierarchy made up of men: because you are a woman, you are flawed; you are responsible to leading men astray; and you are not enough. The abuse you dealt with was nothing but your own fault, just like your spouse leaving the church.

    I have a message, too: I am enough. I am perfectly and wonderfully made. I am whole. The abuse wasn’t a reason to punish me. Asking me in detial to recount what happened is inappropriate; for a whole lot of reasons. That wasn’t okay. I was scared, and you fed into that fear. I own my body, not you. I was never broken. The experiences my daughters have will be different.

    My story isn’t finished, and I am actively trying to change things for the better- for myself, my children, and all women.

  105. This is one story of many : My husband and I were in our late twenties and ready to begin to start a family. We were both deeply committed, obedient TBMs both holding temple recommends. A year or so went by and I started to experience severe pelvic pain. After several visits to a fertility specialist, the doctor advised exploratory surgery for me. Meanwhile, a friend of ours had been to our Stake President and testified that our SP had the gift of healing. She had suffered with depression and had gone to him for a blessing and testified that she had been healed and advised us to go and see him.
    My husband was reticent to go because he had experienced ecclesiastical abuse during his mission. He had seen this movie before. I had not. I asked my husband, “What do we have to lose?” I wish I had known. I was naive in these matters.
    So we went. After telling our SP our situation and about how deeply we desired to be parents – lots of pain and tears were expressed. He listened silently, showing no empathy or feeling. Then he started his inquisition. I was a professional woman at the time (still am) so he started to ask me a lot of peculiar questions. Within a few minutes it dawned on me that he was insinuating that we were infertile because I had a career. Then he started in on my husband. He then leaned back, relaxing in his chair and proceeded to read 2 Kings 5:1-19 about King Naaman from his Bible. After reading, he then spoke saying: “The two of you have leprosy. You need to go and wash yourselves in the river Jordon. The blessing of children is being withheld from you because your lives are amiss. I will not give you a blessing today. You need to go home and get on your knees and fast and pray until you have searched your hearts and minds to discover where the spiritual trouble is. Then give me a call and we can meet again to see if a blessing is appropriate.” We both just sat there, jaws dropped. He was telling us we were unworthy to have children. Nothing else was said. In shock, my husband and I walked out of the room.
    It was a Sunday. We went home. My husband crawled into bed and couldn’t get up for three days. There was no part inside of him that could challenge what the SP had said about his unworthiness. Fifty percent of me believed the SP and fifty percent of me thought: “There is something off seriously with this…”

  106. I was molested by my teenage brother as a young girl, and I was not the only young girl he molested. He felt guilty when he went on his mission and so he confessed to his mission president who simply told him that he was now forgiven. He did not have to come home, apologize to any of his victims, repent, and no authorities were called (we have finally talked about this and he disclosed all this to me, years later… patriarchy hurt him too as he is still haunted by his actions and still needs to apologize to some of his victims).

    In YW’s my bishop (who was later excommunicated for his own sexual sins) took it upon himself to go in depth in talks about sexuality in every single interview which I grew to dread, thinking about those interviews still disturbs me to this day.

    Another bishop gave a talk at a young conference by starting out offering us all a piece of gum. We were asked to raise our hands if we wanted one. Then he chewed it up and asked who wanted it now. And then he related this to a woman who has lost her virginity.

    My daughter was sexually abused by a family member and in less than three months the perpetrator was back to his full fellowship in the priesthood as if nothing happened, my husband and I have never been contacted.

    These are just a few of the many tangible ways patriarchy has been damaging in my life, I could go on and on.

  107. In the home I grew up in the males were considered to be superior to females. While it would be too long to explain all the issues this caused in my family, I will say that to this day the males are considered to be much superior and are listened to while the female children are ignored and brushed aside and it is always made very clear that it is because they are boys and “hold the priesthood” where the girls do not. Just to be clear we get letters from my parents explaining this occasionally. We have received 2 such letters in just this last year.

    This is particularly offensive to the females in our family because two of my three brothers have been excommunicated for serious sexual misconduct and the third has been disfellowshipped twice for sexual misconduct. All of the sisters have always been members in good standing.

    But I also wanted to talk about how women are treated at church when they do have callings of responsibility. Like too many things in the church, how you are treated totally depends on the local priesthood leaders and how you made out in the “priesthood roulette.”

    My husband was in the military so I have lived in over 20 different wards. I have been the president of every female run organization at the ward level at least once, some twice. I have served in many additional presidencies as a counselor. Below are just a few examples of what it can feel like to be a woman serving and trying to bring up a problem in their area of responsibility:

    1. In one ward I had just called as a counselor in Primary with responsibility over the nursery. I was aware of several issues with the nursery such as the room being about 11 x 11 with over 20 children, the nursery leaders often yelling at the children, spanking a child in the nursery on occasion, etc. One child had already escaped unnoticed from the nursery and ran out to the street where a passerby found her. When our Primary Presidency met with the counselor in the Bishopric to discuss the problems, the counselor screamed at us and threatened to release us from our callings and take away our temple recommends for “not supporting our leaders” just because we brought up these problems and wanted to solve them. He emphasized that the previous Primary Presidency hadn’t complained. Since I was mother with a child that I refused to take to that nursery, I knew that the previous Primary Presidency had told me they were aware of the problems but that it was how the Bishopric wanted it so they couldn’t do anything. i.e. they were afraid to speak up anymore.

    2. When I was a Relief Society President, it was pointed out to me that the sacrament was not allowed to be passed in the foyer where mothers with small children were. This was disturbing to these Relief Society sisters because they were trying to maintain the reverence of the sacrament by taking their small children out; then they weren’t being allowed to take the sacrament because if it.

    I brought this up in Ward Counsel and was told by the Bishopric that it was in the church handbook to not pass the sacrament in the foyer (this is the handbook women can’t see). We had already lived in many wards at that point and I knew everywhere else we had lived passed the sacrament to the mothers in the foyer. My Bishopric refused to even ask the Stake President about it, so with my Bishop’s knowledge I made an appointment with the Stake President myself.

    When I went into his office and asked if we could please include the mothers in the foyer when the sacrament was passed, he absolutely screamed at me and was very nasty. How dare I “question” anything from the stake presidency and again he tried to tell me that was in the handbook. In short not only did he scream at me but he also told my Bishop that I was nothing but a “trouble maker” and that I should be released from my calling as Relief Society President. Fortunately my Bishop stood up for me but again I was treated this way because I wasn’t a priesthood holder.

    3. When I was a ward Primary President we had a fairly large ward and as expected, Primary needed teachers. As I recall we had about hundred children in that Primary; the largest Primary in the stake. After being in my calling for about a year we were very short on teachers. I had submitted several names of people to call as Primary teachers but the Bishopric wouldn’t act on any of them. I and my counselors could not possibly teach most of the classes and do sharing time, etc. Every week we had to get several substitute teachers.

    I asked several times to meet with the counselor over the Primary to discuss the issue. He either told me he was too busy to meet or else he did not show up when he did schedule a meeting. The Bishop just told me to talk to his counselor over Primary and refused to help. This went on for several months. I finally wrote a letter to the Bishopric outlining the issues. Instead of meeting with me they told me they had decided to release me because the letter showed that “I didn’t support my Bishopric.” I asked them to point out anything at all in the letter that showed I didn’t support them. The letter simply explained that I needed help in Primary, it was not negative or accusatory in anyway, just outlined our needs. The Bishop told me there wasn’t anything specific just the overall letter showed I didn’t support them.

    4. When my daughter was attending BYU she was called to serve as the Family Home Evening Group “mother”. However she quickly became frustrated and called me several times for advice in how to handle the fact that the male student called to work with her refused to let her have any input and would only tell her what to do. After months of calling me quite upset because she was just treated as a servant, I finally suggested that she talk to her Bishop because I could not imagine that was the intent of having a female called to help with FHE. To both of our surprise the Bishop just released my daughter for not just doing what she was told. That daughter has since left the church because of this kind of attitude toward women.

    While there are many great Priesthood leaders, even still too often women in leadership roles are given 3 choices: 1. Letting their voices be heard in defense of the sisters, youth and children they are called to serve and enduring verbal and spiritual abuse, 2. Ignoring important problems, or 3. Withdrawing so as to not be asked to serve in those kinds of callings. None of these is a good choice.

    Women deserve to be respected and supported in their callings just as men deserve respect and support.

    1. I should clarify that I have also had several outstanding Priesthood leaders that I have worked with that were very respectful and treated women like an equals. My husband also treats me like an equal which I have always appreciated. I just feel like we need this to be more defined and part of church policy instead of random luck.

  108. When I was 19 I lived in Provo, was not super active, and working while attending the community college. I was date raped by a BYU student, returned missionary, active Mormon. I became pregnant from this encounter. The guy “confessed” to his bishop, but changed the story that “he was seduced by me”. I was called in to a court by a group of men I had never met, who didn’t know me AT ALL, and already had their minds made up about what to do with me, all based on my accuser’s lies. He was a temple recommend holding, MALE, and me, well, I was a women. They disfellowshipped me, while he was asked not to take the sacrament for a few weeks. He remained at BYU, active in his ward and temple attendance. I had not been through the temple and had not made the same level of covenants as he had. He made no effort at all to be involved while I carried the baby to full term and put her up for adoption. No financial or emotional support from him at all, and none of his “priesthood leaders” encouraged him to do anything to take responsibility for his actions. I was later reinstated after I “humbled” myself sufficiently for these men. (As if being 19 and single and pregnant after being violated wasn’t humbled enough!) I was so young and naive.

  109. My father exercises his “patriarchal dominion” in a very unrighteous way to try and control my mother. Any time they disagree, he says, “I am counseling you! You must hearken unto me! Does this ring a bell?”

    And she feels like her hands are tied because she made those covenants in the temple.

  110. When I was a teenager, ages 14-18 my Dad was very emotionally and verbally abusive, and even at time physically. Because I didn’t just follow blindly and sometimes I would openly say I didn’t agree with doctorine- I was deemed “a troubled teenager” and so when I went to my bishop for help to stop the abuse- he though I was lying because my “good mormon- card carrying father” could never so that. Things are not always as they seem. This disregard for my safety lead to many years of suicidal thoughts and feelings of worthlessness because my father was the “patriarch” he was never questions, but me, the victim was chalked up as a troubled teen.

  111. Around 16 is when I started doubting things in the church, but I was always very strict about modesty and chastity. It was something that really stuck with me. From an early age, I made myself believe sex was gross, or it would hurt the first time, and it became so ingrained in me that by the time I started dating, I had no desire to have sex. I met my husband and we dated for a year and a half before getting married in the temple, both virgins. We were told by my bishop that we could only kiss for 3 seconds, otherwise we couldn’t hold recommends to get married in the temple. We had to give detail about our experiences and what we had done, it wasn’t pleasant but I thought it was just part of the deal. Once married, I was not able to have sex. It was like there was a wall there, or if we ever were able to do it, it was extremely painful. I told doctors about it, but it wasn’t until years later that I found a doctor who was able to tell me my problem. I had developed a condition called Vaginismus, where your muscles literally stop anything from entering. It happens to women who have had surgeries, been raped, or been raised strictly religious and thought to think of sex negatively. I am still working on the issue and the cure is in sight, thankfully. I blame the church for this. Both of us are now ex mormons and can see the damage the church has on young people. Huge life decisions were made FOR us, not going on a mission was not an option for my husband, getting married in the temple, even though I didn’t want to, was not an option. I honestly do not know how any woman can be a member of the church, you have no power, you are taught to be one way and one way only. I am thankful I was able to see the church for what it is, and that my husband has been right beside me in that journey. My heart goes out to all the women on their wedding night who are just supposed to turn it on after repressing those feelings and thoughts their whole lives. I am sure there are others who have this condition and I wish I could reach out to all of them in their confusion.

  112. When I was 18 I started dating a guy who had just gotten off his mission. The relationship got pretty serious and he started using his “priesthood” as a way to try and control me. He kept trying to get me to let him touch me and perform sexual acts. I told him no over and over but he always said he’d been to the temple and went on a mission and had done way worse things and to trust him, that this was okay. At the time it was really traumatizing, I let him do many things I didn’t feel comfortable with. Then he got tired of trying to persuade me every time so he cheated on me and dumped me. I was so confused, having been taught that all of those things were dirty and bad yet a guy who seemed more spiritualy mature than me said they were okay.

    I’ve since left the church but I feel like because of the way the church teaches that women are under men, that men are the head etc. that women trust what they say and look up to the men in a way that can be very harmful.

  113. I finally left the church when I was released from my calling as Primary Music Director for failing to attend Sacrament Meeting. I had agreed to the calling on the condition that I wouldn’t be expected to attend SM except to direct the Primary Presentation. I was a young single mom in my home ward, and I think they thought they’d be able to lure me back to the fold by giving me this calling and agreeing to my condition. One week before Primary Presentation I was called in to the Bishop(who also happened to be my BIL)’s office. He told me I was not setting a good example to the Primary kids by not going to SM. I tried to defend myself (his counselor had actually “called” me), because I truly enjoyed the music program, and had worked so hard to prepare for the upcoming presentation. I was dismissed, and also informed that I was dressed immodestly that day (some cleavage exposed). I was angry and humiliated, and in tears, when as I left he asked if I would allow my parents to bring my very young daughter to church with them. I said no, and that freed me to develop new Sunday rituals to enjoy with my little family. In the intervening 25 years, I have only gone to the Mormon church for the occasional funeral or wedding reception.
    I did not formally resign my membership until a few years ago, when I read stories like those above. I always thought Mormonism was just a little weird, not actually dangerous, until hearing the experiences of others made me reflect more deeply on my own. I still struggle to separate genuine, authentic spirituality for myself from the ham-fisted patriarchal structure Mormonism represents. It’s so much easier not to have to think for oneself!

  114. I married a very controlling man which then caused me to study the subject of marriage and ‘abuse’ and read all that the church teaches on it. I was appalled to find that much of what the Church has taught is about the husband ‘presiding’ and making the final decisions and dictacts while the wife just supports him. These abusive teachings are even all through the temple too. The Church actually taught men to abuse, disrespect and demean women in so many ways.

    I knew deep down this was all very wrong and I knew my worth and that God believed in women’s total equality and respect, but 20 years ago only a few people seemed to understood abuse and how wives should have equal say in the decision making in the home & church, like in society, and how they are also ‘presiders’ of the home just as much as the husband.

    I even knew a few righteous men who respected women and did not treat them like the Church teaches, but these kind of men seemed rare.

    The abuse from my husband only got worse no matter how nice I was to him and after 15 years and 6 Bishops and 5 Stake Presidents who supported his abuse or did not believe me and did nothing to correct him but just told me to go along with it or they believed his twisted side that I was actually the problem, I finally woke up to how abusive and unrighteous all the leaders of the Church were (even nice ones who went along with Church teachings to keep their positions), from the top to the bottom and so I started to refuse to do what they said.

    They of course got upset with me and labeled me as the problem, I even had one Stake President yell in my face that if I was abused then I should just go to the police and stop bothering him about it (about verbal, emotional or financial abuse?) I knew the police wouldn’t do anything, while the Church’s Prophet had claimed in General Conference it had zero tolerance for abuse. So I had expected it’s leaders to help but found the Church usually supports the abusers and abuses the innocent.

    When my husband saw how the Church would just support him in his abuse and not believe me, the abuse got worse til he finally left me, and the Church totally supported his abandonment of me and our children and the Church supports men in abandoning their duty to continue to provide for his ex-wife and children, except the small amount the courts mandates.

    I couldn’t believe how duped I had been all those years to support and give money to such an evil church with such arrogant and abusive prophets and leaders, who even expect the members, let alone the poor & single mothers ‘to support them, able bodied men, so they don’t have to work’ instead of taking care of the poor ‘single’ mothers they helped to create by encouraging and allowing men to abandon them.

    But I now understand why the Church is so abusive and demeaning to women, because of scoundrels and false prophets like Brigham Young who were also abusive, controlling and domineering over women (practicing evils like polygamy, or withholding Priesthood and equal leadership positions from women and disrespecting women’s & wives general equality ).

    For these early leaders apparently liked, adopted or already practiced the ideas taught in a pamphlet the circulated around Nauvoo called “The Peacemaker”, it taught to abuse women by polygamy and control and dominion. Apparently it sounded really good to most of the church leaders of the day and after Joseph died they began to implement much of the pamphlets teachings.

    But I found that Christ was instead the greatest defender of women and their equality, teaching the Golden Rule, which of course leaves no room for inequality or things like polygamy. Christ taught that women are completely equal to men and that God would give no blessing, privilege, power, position or calling to men that he wouldn’t also offer to women.

    Christ also taught over and over that polygamy was adultery, and that all divorce and remarriage was too, that married men couldn’t marry another woman, even if he divorced the 1st one 1st, for they were still married, for there was no such thing as divorce in God’s eyes.

    The Church of course totally preaches and practices these evils even today, which destroy families instead of saving them, and working to solve the problems, which is not hard if leaders would stand for the right and the equality & respect of women.

    So needless to say I left the Church and now only believe in Christ, who supports women’s complete equality. I finally see that the Church never followed Christ’s teachings, but just the opposite, in order to destroy families, no matter what they may say over the pulpit in order to sound good.

    1. I am right now trying to have a relationship with Christ, and not the Church. The God I believe in would not allow the disrespect I have gotten from the Church leaders. I struggled for years with my husband’s addiction to porn. The psychological abuse that goes along with that can only be understood by someone who has gone through it as well. After 13 years, I finally filed for the divorce. I had forgiven so many times. Less than a month after the divorce, he sexually assaulted me. I have a document he signed admitting to it. Nothing has been done by church leaders to hold him accountable. I have shown mercy three times since then, when I could have used the law to punish him, and instead chose to believe the Church would hold him accountable. I was wrong. He is now, not only sealed to a second wife, but is also a temple worker. I have been told by the stake president and my bishop that mine is the greater sin for not forgiving. There is so much more I could say, but won’t bore you. I just know that my older brother will one day stand beside me and hold ALL the men involved in my treatment accountable. My ex for his destruction of another person’s self confidence and value, and the unrighteous leaders who enabled it.

  115. There was a very strong feeling in the room when my husband was set apart as the Bishop of our newly formed ward. Immediately I felt the “mantle of the priesthood” as he stood and shook hands with the other men who had been circling him and had placed their hands on his head just moments before. We had been married for many years and had six children together. We had been through ups and downs in marriage. Parenting was not our strong suite. We had flaws and issues like normal married couples, but on that day, at that moment I loved my husband more than ever, I forgave him for everything he had ever said and done, and felt very blessed and privileged to be his wife. He was placed on a pedestal by me and everyone in our ward, and all other our Mormon friends and family members. It was a great feeling and by association I even enjoyed some of the power. It was to my benefit also, as friends were made easily, and teaching Relief Society was incredibly fulfilling, because everyone seemed responsive to my lessons.
    Throughout the next six years as he served as a bishop our lives came to a more normal pace, and just as before, he was still the man I married with flaws and issues. He didn’t have training on how to deal with the power that he carried. There was a couple of times he used the power to win an argument or convince me that he was right. I became very sensitive to that issue. Even to this day he uses that power, with “I know more about that than you, I was the bishop once.”
    There was an incident that still to this day makes me shudder. An attractive woman in our ward was divorcing her husband. She called him and wanted him to be in her home while she announced her decision to her children. He did as she wished and for many months continued to counsel this woman. Sometimes late at night and sometimes while we were on a date together he talked on his phone secretly. This was because I wasn’t supposed to know the details. All of this gave him even more power. I didn’t like the position he was in and I felt it was damaging to our relationship as he became more and more emotionally involved with her. Soon she moved from the ward and I was relieved.
    My two youngest children and I were at a ward picnic one summer night at the property adjoining the church building. We were all sitting on blankets on the lawn. I noticed the woman. She was visiting another ward member and was just few feet from me. My husband was in his office counseling someone and I was expecting him to join me soon. I was looking forward to his company and saw him walking across the parking lot. But what happened next was very troubling to me. Before noticing me or looking where I was, my husband spotted the divorced woman. His face lit up and he ran to her and embraced her. Then he joined her on the blanket where she was sitting and began talking with her. I was hurt. In order to not show my hurt, I left the party and went home. I cried because of all the pain I had felt during the time when his importance as bishop had taken precedence over his wife and family.
    I talked to him about the situation and he hadn’t even realized what he had done. He was just doing what he did best, trying to engage in the lives of others so he could help them. He was usually consumed with problems of others and was distant with issues we were experiencing at home.
    Even now, about seven years since he was released, he continues to tell people he was the bishop once. This gives him some power with other Mormons. I rode on his shirt tails and partook of the power too, until I lost belief in my Mormon church. This happened when I researched the essays put out by the church. Why was there so much information that was and is never discussed in any church forum? Why couldn’t anyone discuss the issues with me now? My husband could only go so far and then it turned into, “You have been deceived and needed to start praying more.” I have been a member all of my life. I grew up in a very devote home. My husband is an active and true believing Mormon. I continue to go to church with him, pay tithing, and live all of the things I was taught. We have disconnection between us which is really sad. When the church teaches that I am deceived by the devil, or I am a lost and fallen soul, I feel so much pain. I have never experienced anything in my life as hard as this has been, that includes losing both my parents. I see the leaders of the church as men with an enormous amount of power. They have so much influence over my believing family and friends. They don’t understand the pain I am in. They have abandoned me when I needed them most.
    The only believing person I have told about my loss of faith is my husband. I have been in counseling for about a year. I’m not sure what I would have done if I had no one to talk to about this situation. Thank you John Dehlin for giving me a safe place and an understanding shoulder.

  116. My experiences were not as horrible as some of you who have written. Still, I feel a need to be heard.

    I was raised to believe that men had a stronger connection to heaven simply because they were priesthood holders. My understanding of the endowment was that, once I was married, I was a step farther from God than I was before. (I went on a mission and it was several years later that I got married. Being single in the church made me feel like a real loser.)

    After I got married, I told my husband that now he stood between me and God. He readily agreed, glad that I saw it for how it was. He had a sense of entitlement because he was male. (The relationship was hell, and I’m not interested in delving into it for any reason, even for commenting on this site.)

    I wish I had been taught by my society that I was equal to a man, just as capable, had a right to search out a career I would love, and that I had every right to stand up for myself instead of being trained to be “nice”. I thought I was supposed to lie down and let anyone run over me, but especially men. I don’t think that way anymore. I think that I am just as good as men and that it is just fine if I refuse to lie down and be stomped on.

    In the leadership roulette, I was blessed while I was married in that the leaders had my husband’s number, so to speak. After I divorced him, I got “congratulations” from most people, including the stake president who admitted he was not supposed to say that.

    So, not all of the men in the church are abusive, think women are second-class citizens of the church. I’ve had some very good bishops and stake presidents, but the general environment is conducive to stepping on women (note Elder Bednar’s talk from a few years ago wherein he verbally applauded a young man for dumping a young lady who did not take out her extra earring(s) after “the prophet” had said to. I view that young woman as very lucky to have escaped being married to an @ss).

    1. I have finished reading both pages here. Several people have brought up The Miracle of Forgiveness. I read that when I was a teenager. It made me feel like I should kill myself because it told me I should be dead. I didn’t know why (I had repressed a memory of being kidnapped and, as much as it is possible, being raped when I was nearly 4. My mother challenged my faulty memory when I was in college and I had to face that it had actually happened).

      The clear message from the book was, if you are raped and are not lucky enough to be killed by your attacker, it is your God-directed duty to kill yourself to be right with God. And Spencer Kimball was not the only general authority dispensing that advice. I suspect that the suicidal tendencies I have struggled with in my life are the result of that particular teaching. I was unworthy to be alive. (I’m sure other factors contributed, but I think that teaching was the seed and is the root.)

      1. I can relate to how you feel. I remember at age 12 attending a fireside with my parents about rape. The speaker who was an area authority empasized that your virtue is more important than your own life. Even with a gun to your head or knife to your throat, do not allow yourself to be raped. Fight to the death.

        Years later when I made the mistake of breaking the law of chastity with a boyfriend during an emotionally vulnerable time, I realized I should be dead. I mean, if someone WILLINGLY gives up their virtue…what is the point of living after that? I dated this guy (whom I had given my virtue to) for three years, basically waiting for him to become my husband. I knew no one else would want me. He finally ended it. I can’t blame him. He had to deal with a confused, crying, worthless loser that shouldn’t even be alive one minute, and the overly optimistic, cheerful girl trying to convince him I knew something he did not, that he should know to make his life better (the Gospel). What a roller coaster for him.

        I did not end my life, obviously. And am in counseling. But I still think about it as an option

  117. As a 12 year old naive girl, as well as a very sheltered Mormon who was born in the covenant, I proceeded to go to the Bishop’s Interview required to enter into the Young Women’s program. In the interview I was asked very specific and graphic questions about my sexuality. Because I was also very forthright, even as a young girl, I blatantly asked my bishop, “What is masturbation?” in which I was horrified that he went into specific detail.

    This led me to be a VERY rigid and uptight teenager and young adult in regards to sex. I married my temple husband at age 20, we were both virgins, and yet because of my fear, I could not have sex for 2 and a half years.

    Eventually I went on to have children, but my faith crises happened at about age 28, with two young children, and I was a primary president, I asked myself… is this IT? Is this all I will progress to?

    Fast forward, I am now 34, almost divorced and still traumatized by family because I no longer attend church. Needless to say, my daughter who just turned 12… did not attend the Bishop’s interview.

  118. A girl (or boy) should never feel compelled to be alone in a room with a grown man while he asks her questions about her sexuality.

    A twelve-year-old girl should not be alone in a room with two adult men while they explain to her that her skirt is too short and it could give some boys the wrong impression. She will only feel confused and dirty because men, who are her father’s age, are referring to her prepubescent body as a sexual object.

    A girl should never be told to repent for being raped. Even if she was given enough alcohol by her rapist to make her pass out. “No. No. No.” is the last thing she remembers saying.

    A woman should never feel so terrified by the burden of child-rearing that she chooses not to pursue a career.

    No one has the right to tell a woman when or if she will procreate.

    A woman’s input or opinion should never be dismissed by a man solely based on his position, especially when the power he holds over her is connected to something she will never have access to.

    A woman should never have to accept the fact that in the next life she will be better equipped to understand the importance of sharing her husband with countless other women.

    A woman should never be told to hide her face in the presence of God.

  119. My father was a bishop and “follow the brethren” is his favorite mantra. He was a strict, unloving and emotionally abusive father but loved his church involvement and anything related to the church. It is all that really matters to him. He has treated my mother so horribly throughout their marriage and dismisses her thoughts and almost everything she says…she is a shell of a person now who suffers from depression and an eating disorder.

    Thankfully, I did not marry a man with a character like my father. But much to my dismay and sadness, he too was called to be a bishop. I was invisible and at the same time harshly judged in this “role” by (it seemed) everyone. I guess my role was to “support my husband” in this “important” calling. I was so angry and lonely.

    Now I sit as a teacher in primary (where I have two primary age children) and look up at the pictures of the men plastered on the primary room wall and wonder what subtle message has already been implanted in my young daughters mind. Who by the way is an amazing girl, full of potential!

    A couple of years ago one of the bishopric members called me in to extend a calling. I declined the calling right then and there, but he did not accept it and told me to go home and talk to my husband about it! I went home, ranted and raved to my sweet husband, and called the counselor up and said, “I talked to my husband and he agrees with my declining this calling”. I was sick to my stomach and have regretted since that time, that I “obeyed” his telling me to talk to my husband.

    There are so many ways that the patriarchal climate of the LDS church harms people. Women learn to accept 2nd class citizenry in the church and men learn to think and feel it is okay to treat women that way. Much of this attitude happens through subtle repetition that begins so young!

  120. When I was 17, I was pressured into engaging in some sexual activities with my boyfriend. I felt terrible and went to see my bishop who asked very specific questions. I had to have horribly uncomfortable meetings alone with my bishop for several weeks, where he would monitor how I was doing. I wasn’t allowed to take the sacrament at the time, but I didn’t want my mom to know I had “messed up” so when the sacrament was passed, I would pretend to take it. After that first relationship, I felt dirty and unworthy to date good guys, so I fell into another demeaning relationship where there was more pressure to be physical. Again, I messed up. That relationship ended the summer before I started at BYU. I repented to a new bishop in my single’s ward who fortunately didn’t ask explicit details and even allowed me to continue to take the sacrament (the differences in my discipline made me wonder if my repentance was adequate the second time around). At nineteen, I began dating the man I would marry who was and is an incredible man. Before marrying him though, I counseled with my bishop about how much I should tell my then-fiancé about the physicality of my past relationships. My bishop told me not to tell him anything because I had repented. A few weeks after speaking with my bishop, my fiancé made a comment about how he could never marry someone who wasn’t a virgin–I stayed silent (technically I was still a virgin), but felt huge waves of guilt pour over me as I thought how unworthy I was to marry this man. But marry him I did. I experienced profound guilt every time my husband and I had sex and I learned to dread it. It took me twelve YEARS to finally open up and tell my husband about my past. When I told him, I truly wondered if he would want a divorce, but after getting over the initial shock and feeling like he was married to a stranger, he was able to get past it, mostly. Now my husband says he’s just jealous that he didn’t fool around as a teenager himself when I got to.

    I still don’t enjoy sex, and I feel that the guilt that was weighing over me for 12 years is to blame. I put far too much faith in a bishop who gave me terrible advice, as well as a culture that told me my worth was based solely on my sexual purity.

  121. When I was young, about 6, one of my relatives began sexually abusing me. He would sometimes recruit my friends to participate as well as some of his friends. That continued until I was about twelve years old. When I went to BYU I began to struggle with depression and feelings of self-loathing. There was a huge pressure to date and get married, but I believed I was not pure and was unworthy. As I had been told in Young Womens, I was akin to a piece of chewed gum, a licked cup cake, and who wanted that when there were plenty of un-chewed and unlocked and pure women to pick from? I went to talk to my bishop and he told me to see a counselor. I did and the counselor told me I had to repent because I had seduced this family member. My guilt was conpounded and my self-hate grew. During my second semester, I was called to the bishops office and was asked if I could help out a young man in the ward. This young man had told the bishop he was gay, and he was trying so hard to change. The bishop asked me if I would have sex with this young man, so he could feel and know that being gay was wrong and I would be helping him. It didn’t really matter for me, as I was already impure. I told him I wouldn’t and he was disappointed in me. I was also told that I needed to forgive the person who had sexually abused me, otherwise I would be responsible for their sorrow. I couldn’t, and the shame and guilt kept building. My junior year at BYU I was raped. I went on a date and was drugged. I didn’t even know I had been raped until a few months later. I had an STD. I went to the campus doctor and was asked who I had sex with. I didn’t know I had and amsweed honestly. The doctor was very patient and kind and understanding. I was told, “Don’t worry, I won’t tell your bishop and you won’t get kicked out.” I didn’t tell because I was afraid and the shock of realizing what had happened was toouch to absorb at the moment. Thankfully, the STD was easy to treat. When I told my parents years later, my father’s responce was that I was to be grateful for the experience, as it gave me a chance to practice the atonement and to forgive someone. I think that, above all the other comments and things that happened, was the most hurtful. I know he meant well, but it was the last thing I needed to hear at the moment. I Rebe when he found out about the sexual abuse he told me he wasn’t worried about me, my soul was still pure and I was fine, but I really wasn’t. I was a mess, a disaster really.

    I harbor no ill will towards the church, although I no longer have any interest in being involved with it. I hope that as more people continue to tell their stories of how the church’s lack of training and sensitivity on these subjects come to light, a shift will happen. Church courts are extremely shaming, and so many people need to be dealt with in a less humiliating manner. I would prefer my name not be published, as it’s not a common one and some will know who I am just by the story.

  122. The first time I questioned the male patriarchy of the church was when my sister, barely out of her teens, dated a young RM for a few weeks. He talked to my father and even after being counseled to give it time, he told my sister he had prayed in the celestial room of the temple and it had been revealed to him that she would be he wife. She was, of course, ecstatic. A few weeks later she left on a trip for a week. Whereas before she left the two of them seemed to be glued together, while she was gone he never once contacted her. This was very distressing for her, especially when she came home and he was nowhere to be found. When she finally contacted him he bluntly told her that while she was gone he’d been praying in the celestial room of the temple and that the spirit had told him that their marriage would never work, so he called things off. She was emotionally destroyed and (obviously) internalized everything as “her fault” because he received those “revelations.” That was the first time I realized that revelation could be used as a way to manipulate. Moreover, I saw how some random male in the church felt like he could exact his authority over my sister, and she acquiesced.

    I’d seen my father, who I love and respect dearly, have disputes with my mother wherein I would side with my mother because she was clearly right, but once the “I am the patriarch of this family” car would come out, all discussion was over. I always felt this was unfair, but accepted it as truth because I was taught by the church that the father is the head of the household.

    For the majority of my life I noticed aspects of gender inequality propagated throughout all levels of church (the focus on modesty, motherhood, purity, etc.), but always accepted the inequality as part of the great plan God had for us. Obviously being male I never felt the frustrations associated with those inequalities. I noticed them and they bothered me on some levels, but they never had a direct affect on me.

    I served my mission in a country where misogyny ruled. It was like stepping back in time to when the Women’s Right movement was scoffed at here in the United States. Women were basically glorified servants in their households–both to their husbands and to their children (moreso their male children). These women tended to every need of their husband–food, rest, cleaning, sex. Birth control was unheard of so most of these women had numerous children and absolutely no help at home taking care of them. There were married women in their twenties who looked as if they were in their forties. I was disgusted to see that this treatment was rampant among the member families, both leaders and “normal” members alike. Seeing this deplorable treatment of women over and over by members, men who I knew outside of their homes because I worked closely with them in the church, helped to solidify in my mind that would never treat my future wife in that same way.

    I was married in my later twenties to a wonderful Mormon bride. Things were rocky at times, as with any marriage, but we seemed to be able to overcome those things by working together. My wife is a go-getter. She has a very sharp mind and always felt great fulfillment through her jobs and activity in extracurricular activities. When we decided to have children we also decided to be as obedient as possible. Both of us had been reared in homes where the mother didn’t work. She took care of both children and home. This was what we’d been taught and, even though knowing that we’d have to tighten our belts to make it work, she left her job and we had two beautiful children.

    Things changed drastically in our marriage from that time on. I believe she suffered from post-partum depression, but never sought help because you’re supposed to be able to pray those problems away. Staying home all day with our children fed into that depression. She and I started having little problems that turned into major problems. At the time I didn’t realize this, but I was doing exactly what my father had done to my mother by pulling priesthood authority over my wife. She told me numerous times that she felt a need to work, even if only for a few hours a day, to be able to get out and interact with people. I immediately doubted her faith in the counsel we’d received about stay-at-home-mothers and accused her of not loving our children enough to make that sacrifice. As the fighting continued over time, my outbursts towards her became increasingly more angry and volatile. There was never any physical abuse, but I was putting her through unfair amounts of emotional and mental abuse, something I was blind to see. I felt completely justified about the things I said and did because I was the patriarch of our family and I knew what was best. However, the reality of the situation was that I had no idea what was best for her and my ideas of patriarchy and authority were so ingrained into my thinking that I could not see the things I was doing to her. One day she’d had enough and did the only thing she could do–she told me she didn’t love me any more and that she wanted out. I was crushed and depression became my constant companion for a long time.

    It takes two to fight. Hurtful things happened on both side. But I wanted to take responsibility for my actions. Through therapy with a very patient and loving therapist I was able to slowly open my eyes and realize what I was doing to her. To my everlasting shame I was trying to manipulate and control my wife, and the subconscious justification I had in my mind was that I was the man, the husband, the head of the household. I had the priesthood. Even after seeing how women were treated on my mission, I’d fallen into a pattern of thinking that I deplored, AND I DIDN’T EVEN REALIZE I WAS DOING IT. That might sound like a cop-out, but I was convinced I was a model husband. I worked to provide. I helped take care of my kids. I helped wash the dishes, occasionally cleaned, folded clothes and helped with upkeep. But always feeling deep down that I was helping her with her responsibilities. Knowing this now fills me with great feelings of remorse. I’d never wanted to hurt my wife, but I did. If I exercised unrighteous dominion over my wife even while consciously deploring the act and expressly trying not to do it, how many more men in the church treat their wives the same or worse while justifying their actions because they hold the priesthood?

    I’ve worked to make some major changes in the very way I view the world–my personal ideology. I interact differently with my wife now. Things have improved in many aspects, but we both have deep scars we’re now trying to let heal. She’s working and we’re both trying to raise our little family together.

    As I’ve become more aware of myself and the way I acted, I have also become increasingly aware of the inequality that exists within the church regarding women. Kate Kelly’s excommunication spurred me to look into it more. I started asking my mother and sisters questions about if they’ve ever felt harmed by the patriarchy of the church. They all had stories, things they’d just kept to themselves because it wasn’t appropriate to talk about or because they’d been told by leader that it was their burden to bear.

    THIS IS NOT RIGHT!

    I have a young daughter. She is like her mother–strong, intelligent, sociable, determined. She loves learning about everything. I’m so worried that spark of curiosity will be doused by the consistent and repetitive teaching that she is female and her greatest accomplishment will be to be a mother. Motherhood is important, just as fatherhood is important to me. But it is not EVERYTHING. Some of the most astounding and inspiring people I know are women, one of whom graciously decided to stay married to me even after those years of absolute hell. I see that potential for greatness in my daughter and I want her to achieve all that she can and never have to worry about a man, member of the church or not, to hold her back.

    Finally, I have questions. Polygamy. Polyandry. Joseph Smith’s marriage to a girl who was merely 14 years of age. His treatment of his first wife, Emma. The shaming of girls who have been raped or molested. The shaming of girls for the way they dress. The shaming of girls who get pregnant before marriage. Anyone who denies these things is delusional. Anyone who justifies them is irrational. There are a great number of women in the church who suffer sexual, physical, mental or emotional abuse. It is a reality that needs to be brought to light. I hope all women who have experienced such abuse will feel empowered to share it here.

  123. The Stake President who interviewed me for my mission was shortly thereafter censured by The Church for molesting patients under anesthesia – he was a well known dentist.

    The Stake President who interviewed me prior to my temple marriage (a truly awful experience) was shortly thereafter excommunicated for having an affair with a member of the Stake Relief Society Presidency: at the church.

    Three years ago a Temple President and his son (a counselor in a Stake Presidency) attempted to steal over $10,000.00 from my family – when they refused to honor an employment contract and pay me for work honorably given. It wasn’t until I threatened to appeal to a higher authority, they finally agreed to pay me; eight months later.

    It would truly be an understatement, to say that I have no confidence in this whole doctrine of so called “Judges in Israel”. These people will do ANYTHING to protect the IMAGE of The Church (and themselves) even at the expense of doing what’s right. I don’t trust any of them anymore!

  124. As a man, I don’t pretend that Mormon patriarchy harms men as much as women. Nor do I think that my story is as horrific as some of the stories here. However, it’s clear that Mormon patriarchy harms women AND men in different ways.

    I was raised in a very Mormon family in a very Mormon community. I was taught that all young men should serve missions and that all young women should marry returned missionaries. I didn’t question this advice and didn’t seriously consider the option of not serving a mission. As such, I went off to the MTC at age 19. I almost immediately suffered severe depression and anxiety. It got to the point where I was suicidal and came home. Full of self-loathing and feeling like a failure, I tried again with similar results.

    My self-esteem was shot. I struggled immensely for several years. This led me to a marriage that was probably not what I would have entered into otherwise.

    What does this have to do with patriarchy? Mormon patriarchy seems to be based on some very rigid gender roles: Men go on missions, lead, and earn money; women look pretty and modest, get married, and become mothers. If anyone fails to follow these strict ideals, they are judged and reprimanded and feel like a failure. Apologists may claim the church doesn’t teach this, but it clearly does. It’s in the proclamation to the family, and is so engrained in the culture it is simply overflowing with it. To me, Mormon culture cannot be completely separated from Mormon doctrine. The culture is created by the doctrine, shaped by it, and strongly influenced by it. Mormon leaders, if they wished, could dramatically change this culture by changing their rhetoric.

    I’ve also watched my Mormon mother, aunts, and female cousins struggle with depression, self-esteem, and very limited aspirations and world views. I’ve seen ambition and potential crushed by patriarchal expectations.

    When I’ve tried to discuss this issue with my father or other male Mormon authorities, they become angry and defensive and deny there is a problem. They claim there is nothing wrong and ask their Mormon wife and daughters to back them up. Many of the Mormon women will support the patriarchy because it is all they know.

    This is what the Mormon patriarchy is now doing to John D. Deny there is a problem, attack the person complaining, and parade out Mormon women to show how happy they are.

    It won’t work. Objective and educated people see exactly what is going on. The only healthy solution long-term is to end the patriarchy, come clean about the history, and move forward.

    Rather than each individual, regardless of their gender, choosing a unique path that is right for them, patriarchy forces us all into very limiting roles. This is so damaging to our identities and needs to stop.

  125. It is hard to pick out which experiences were the most harmful…I will just list a few of some formative experiences that left a big impression that I am only now 30 years later beginning to understand.

    I recall multiple conversations with my Grandpa as a young girl where he spoke to me about how I would need to accept that in the eternities that I would likely be with a husband as a multiple wife. Even as a young girl I thought this MUST be wrong. I now think how sad a message that is to deliver to your grand daughter related-to developing self esteem.

    Another experience that stood out was being away at girls camp. We were “allowed” one night away from the lodge paired with a hike but only with priesthood holders coming along to protect and guide us. We went and hiked and that night there was a downpour causing the girls tents to fall in. We sat up and shivered until dawn while the men sent to protect us slept soundly and warm. I had another “feeling” that this seemed wrong but no words to express my thoughts at that young age.

    A little older I found myself at a church school with a school dance coming. I wasn’t dating anyone and didn’t plan to go. A stranger approached me while working and asked me to go to the dance. I didn’t know his name. Who he was. Nothing…so I said no. Later in the week my uncles and aunts found out through the college ward about my response. Guess he was in their ward. They shared disappointment in what I had done. They spoke to me about how hard it must have been for this elder to ask. I felt ashamed and embarrassed but mostly confused. Now in looking back I think how disempowering this experience was. They would rather put me in danger of being with a complete stranger rather than have this boy/man experience disappointment.

    These are just a few. The list is long and I am only now starting to unravel it all so many years later.

  126. I was sexually molested for 14 years by my temple recommend holding father who implemented parts of the temple ceremony in the abuse. I married a RM in the temple with him aware of the abuse before hand. When I didn’t “perform” to his satisfaction, he would berate me in many ways and refer to me as “second-hand” and “a lemon.” When I went to a bishop to discuss another matter, the childhood abuse came up. He demanded I turn over my temple recommend and said he would talk to the Stake President and push for excommunication. He stated that he could understand a young child being helpless against abuse , but I should have done something to stop it once I became a teenager. Therefore I was just as guilty as my father and deserved a church court. I tried to explain the effects of abuse and replied I was worthy of my temple recommend. He stated if he couldn’t excommunicate me for the abuse, he would do it on the grounds of apostasy for not obeying him as my “Judge in Israel.” The bishop then made an appointment for me to meet with th SP. When I explained all that happened in the bishop’s office, the SP said I must have misunderstood because he was the best bishop in the stake and would never had made such statements or threats. A couple months later the bishop was released to serve as a Mission President.

  127. My wife who is disabled depends on medical attention for her needs and because I was earning income that was above the limit (even though it is still in poverty level) she was told that her medical benefits would be cut off. I tried to get the local leadership to help, of course with any help from church leadership it always requires strings attached to it. We were told to read the Book of Mormon, come to church every Sunday, and participate in every way possible including going to the temple. My wife never has felt very welcome at church due to the lack of compassion that people seem to have for her because of her disability, sadly even in modern times it seems that people still look down and don’t appreciate a person just because of their disability or their physical looks.

    We decided to appeal the decision to cut my wife off from her medical benefits and asked church leadership to stand with us in the appeal process to convince the “system” that she needs to have her benefits kept. What was said by the leadership broke my heart and soul but also made me see what the church was truly about. The second counsellor to the Bishop, his name is Joe Milner told my wife on the phone that she should “get off the cross and let Jesus back on” and then proceeded to tell me on the phone that the only way that I would get any help is to support a certain political party. I told him on the phone that Jesus doesn’t support any certain political party and asked to speak with him in person which he refused to do so.

    At the time of the appeal, we had been paying tithing for the past several years and of course it came out in the appeal process that we were spending some of our income on tithing instead of medical care and the “system” didn’t like that. My wife was also told by the bishop and Stake President that they would deny that tithing was a commandment by the church as both my wife and I were going to argue to the “system” that tithing is part of religion and that it shouldn’t be discriminated against. We were both completely shocked by the treatment that we received and felt betrayed. One week that I decided to go to church after this incident (my wife refused to go after the incident but I tried to continue due to my mind conditioning that had been done to me through my childhood) one of the twelve apostles showed up at our sacrament meeting. I went up to him after the meeting and asked to speak with him over an issue that I had, the Stake President noticed me trying to tell my concerns to the apostle and tried to prevent me from talking to him. The apostle just told me that I had to go to the Lord and that he wouldn’t be able to speak with me, my heart broke at that time as well.

    It may sound awkward but I feel blessed to have gone through that experience because had I not had the experience that my wife and I had with the church, it would have not lead us to the incredible journey that we are on now in regards to understanding ourselves and the universe in which we live in. I have also learned that the word “religion” in latin means to “bind together”. My wife and I both personally have decided that religion isn’t the answer and that spirituality is a personal journey and not one that is given by another.

    I haven’t done as much research as others regarding the REAL church history, I did stumble upon Kevin Kraut who made some Youtube videos regarding the Mormon church. I strongly recommend checking out his videos if you haven’t already, they are very informative.

  128. I was a virginal, faithful LDS girl, RM who wanted to follow the prophet and do everything that I was commanded to do. ABCd=WXYZ, right?

    I married my husband right after my mission, I had already given up 2 years of college to serve the mission but then felt his career should come first because he would be the breadwinner. We knew the “roles” outlined for us in the Proclamation of the Family”.

    I faithfully gave birth to several children in a very short time while he went through law school. He rose up the ranks to Elder’s Quorum President and eventually Bishopric.

    It was in his second year in that calling that I discovered he was having several affairs.

    Years earlier, he had beat me up while I was pregnant, I went to the bishop and he councelled me to stay.

    Here I was years later still stuck, imprisoned by 5 small children and no way to make a living on my own.
    I went back to the Bishop, he didn’t believe me, then told me I needed to “love him more” quoting the “Pina-Colada Song”. I realized he was an idiot and I’d been duped into following idiots.

    I proceeded with divorce and when I asked the Bishop for help (food) as I was suddenly drowning in legal bills fighting the very attorney I helped create, he refused, saying he “Didn’t want to get in the middle of it.”

    I took my children and moved into another town, ward and tried to get things as positive and normal for them. But then discovered I had breast cancer. I was still fighting in court, trying to get child support and now I had to deal with this.

    My then current bishop was aware and when I requested that I be released from my RS Homemaking Committee calling so I could focus on my health, and kids, he refused, telling me that I “Needed the Blessings” and there was no way the Lord could bless me if I did nothing for him. WTH???

    So I found myself, 2 weeks after a total mastectomy, still in severe pain, on my hands and knees scrubbing the floor of the kitchen at the church.

    Any requests for food orders were met with a request to see a 2 week menu to see how the food was to be used and an examination of my bills by a group of three men to see how I handled my finances.

    Of course they were allowed to tell me (because they were given the authority) what bills I didn’t need and how everything was my fault and never that my ex had screwed up everything much less the CHURCH and BRETHREN who set me in this trajectory to find myself helpless and struggling.
    And it was always council to continue to PAY tithing over bills and medicine and food.

    What was most stunning to me was how the other wives in the Bishopric, embraced the men over the women who struggled and blamed ME over him!!!!
    Women are brainwashed to hold men and the Priesthood over any needs of a female and the children.

  129. My story is somewhat similar to almost all of these posts.

    1. Sexual abuse by priesthood holder
    2. Self harm and mental health issues
    3. Inappropriate counselling and sexual questioning as a child, young women and a married adult, by Priesthood authorities.
    4. Strained marriage and relationships as a direct result of church affiliation.

    The church is a nest of vipers and the brethren refuse to see it. There is no good in the LDS church. Now I know why non members view it as a sex cult.

    1. I want to add, I thought I was the only one. Mormon Stories literally saved me from suicide. Reading other people’s experiences – I am not mad. I am not the problem. A pattern is emerging. The church and its leadership have failed in their mission statements and the blame lies with them.

      Thank you, everyone, for sharing your stories. I am truly comforted and if there is a God, he’s on John Dehlin’s side.

      The scriptures talk about the worth of souls, not protecting the institution at all costs. The scriptures talk about taking care of the one, not facing towards the brethren.

      I repeat… a nest of vipers.

  130. My father, a devout member, said negative things about women all of the time. When I was a teenager, he knew that I did not like these comments, and took to calling me a Feminazi. Once, he came home from a Stake High Council meeting, smiling in delight, and told me that I would have been furious about the things the Stake President said about women. It was clear that he believed that God himself felt that way about women, and that he felt vindicated in the nasty things he said about women. This idea that God didn’t like women permeated our home.

    I also remember a constant stream of negative issues that women whispered about but never addressed –the way Bishopric members spoke about women in sacrament meeting, the fact that boys’ activities got much more money than girls, and the bishops who told women that abuse was their fault. Perhaps more than the outright negative comments, this hurt me most, because I learned that we had to be passive and just take it.

    I encountered extraordinary sexism at BYU. Once a friend was victimized sexually by another (male) student. She was disfellowshiped and her Stake President almost kicked her out of BYU. The man who victimized her was not disciplined at all.

    I married a devout Mormon man who was absolutely not sexist. I have also had many male leaders who were genuinely sensitive to women’s needs. I have had others who clearly did not take women seriously. I believe that many of the best men in the church, (and there are many wonderful men in the church), are not comfortable dealing with women as equals. I have met many women who automatically put themselves in second place, which troubles me. Patriarchy damages us all in different ways. But it means that women have a harder time being heard. I do not feel heard at church. But at work, I am always heard. It is hard not to notice the difference.

  131. The Bishop’s manual in 1977 (look it up) was clear; no birth control.
    We had our first child 9 months after being married in the SLC Temple.
    We were thrilled; I could not have felt more blessed.
    However, since we were quite poor ($320/mo. after tithing, taxes, and job expenses – I quit a very good job to be a full-time mother), and since handling motherhood and a new marriage were all I could handle, I desperately needed to space my next child.
    The bishop showed us the bishop’s manual. NO birth control.
    I even called him at work while on my Obgyn’s exam table in the Dr’s office for my 6-week checkup after our first child was born. “Is there ANYTHING I can do?” The bishop replied, “NO. This comes from the first presidency. The Prophet.”
    I was new and naive – I actually believed the Prophet walked and talked with God. No matter what I thought, God had spoken.
    I could a) Directly disobey God and use some sort of birth control.
    b) Obey, and try not to get pregnant (rhythm method – I knew that didn’t work)
    c) Become abstinent _ absolutely no marital relations until we could handle having our second child.
    I saw how the Church manipulated couples into having more children than they wanted/planned.

    I chose c. It was the only way I could be obedient and emotionally handle surviving that period of our lives.

    Priesthood abuse? YES!! Abuse of Power? Yes, Yes, YES! They have NO BUSINESS dictating when we have children!!
    Did it affect my marriage? YES!! It made a financially poor, struggling, new couple have more anxieties than were necessary. Even after 40 years of marriage, my husband harbors guilt over how he struggled through that period of life, and the years afterward.

    They later came out with the announcement that married couples need to be more ‘tame’ in their sexual practices. I don’t remember the wording, but we felt invaded. We even met with our bishop to find out what that meant!! And we were having great difficulties with intimacy as it was!! HOW DARE THEY!!!

    MEN!! POWER Corrupts. If women were in equal positions, they would have tempered these harmful actions/edicts.

  132. My husband has figured out that he is bisexual. We cannot express the horrible experiences and degradation we have endured because we believed the Bishops, stakepresidents,the prophet, and apostles had authority and ability to help us. They said they did. We did what we were asked and more. My husband was completely honest in interviews about what was going on for him. They tryed so many things to help. They admitted their inability, but let us know they cared. They were clueless! We needed love, but that was too much to give.They didn’t have enough time for that. We needed respect and confidence in our innate goodness. They could see the goodness, but couldn’t understand why things didn’t change. Well, you can imagine how after so long of working closely with them, you get a sense of how uninspired they are. They keep on letting you know they are at a total loss but ask you to do things they think might help somehow. Then you see people dealing with similar things, but not disclosing them. It is too usafe after a while to be at church, especially after being disciplined by the church. When you discipline one member, you basically affect the whole family. It comes off as disgraceful, not loving. You almost feel leprous. You are on the outs and cannot be normal in a group that only respects strong, active, in full fellowship members. The longer that is the case, the more horrible life feels to the point of wanting to end your lives. Finally, we let go of enduring to the end and found safety out of the church. We finally went to a councilor that was not a. member of the church that really helped us figure out the real crux of what was going on. It was something that finally made sense! This was something we could actually work with, understanding our sexual orientation differences. It isn’t easy, but we are seeing it clearly now, with no moral sinning issues applied. This feels light years different and workable. It was more damaging than people might imagine to have live within a system that claims to have this patriarchal authority, but no real power or insight from God!

  133. My husband was a former bishop and I was a former stake Relief Society president when a friend came over and showed us bruises and injuries from being beaten by her husband. She had gone to a doctor and the injuries were documented. She went to her bishop, who told her to keep silent and stay in the marriage. Her stake president told her the same thing.

    Her husband was a former bishop and current high councilor member. We were concerned about our friend’s safety and reported the abuse to her stake president, who was a friend of this woman’s husband. He told us to remain quiet, so we wrote to the area authority, documented the times of serious abuse and injury.

    My husband was called into our stake president’s office, where our friend’s stake president told him he could no longer give anyone a priesthood blessing and that he if we lived in his stake, my husband and I would be excommunicated.

    Our friend eventually filed for divorce. She was ostracized by church leadership, her family and friends and suffered a “nervous breakdown” because of the ecclesiastical abuse. Her ex-husband continues to hold positions of authority in his stake and his close friend is a General Authority. He ex-husband has several documented affairs before and after they were married but has never been disfellowshipped or excommunicated.

  134. Reading these stories is like an extra punch in the gut. As if nothing was learned by what I went through. There was no growth from the church leadership. Is it because I left? That was long after the sexual abuse, back when I accepted my treatment. But now I see all the others who have experienced similar and nothing was learned then either. Is it because women aren’t worth enough to the brethren? Is it something else? Every time this happens again every single one of us will know that what we went through was just the way it’s supposed to be, we are nothing and certainly not worth changing the culture of the church for. When will we be enough? If not ever I want them to say it, to let everyone know before baptism, ‘we need you boys’ ‘the girls can wait outside if we remember them at all’.

  135. Yes. This whole doctrinal nonsense of not even *looking* at other women cost me dearly in the relationship department earlier in my life. How does any man enter into a relationship if he’s not even looking at a woman (and lusting after her)?

    But I guess that’s the point. Joseph Smith wanted to control other men so that he could have more women to himself. But nowadays, people should recognize the fraud for what it is. Scriptures like these ought to be illegal.

    So many stupid scriptures in Mormonism. I can’t tell you how many poorly written scriptures hurt me in Mormon OS 1830. Hell, even Windows Vista would be a HUGE improvement over Mormon OS 1830.

  136. Reading through all of these comments is really saddening. It reminds me of a neighbor I had growing up. He had some serious issues in his life, had gone to his priesthood leaders and was called into a church court and excommunicated. He became hateful, and then went on to become a very vocal Anti-Mormon. I had frequent exposure to this family because their son was my friend. This father tried repeatedly to convince me that the Mormon church was of the devil, I was going to hell for believing in any of it, and that I should repent and cast out the evil & deceptive spirit from my life.

    The proof and evidence of the spirit in my own life, a spirit that I felt keenly and often, didn’t jive with the experience he assumed I was having. I was leading a life filled with inspiration and had some pretty amazing spiritual witnesses, even from an early age, and yet he regularly expressed his believe that I was leading a life of evil and sin simply because I was a practicing Mormon.

    I remember being over at their house one day playing in an adjacent room with my friend, who was also becoming increasingly bitter about all Mormons (even though he’d never been to a Mormon church and we were just kids). They had some visitors, and I could hear them in the kitchen just railing on Mormons. They were talking about people I knew who were good and honest people. It made me sick how much hatred they held, how much religious bigotry was going on.

    The tone in this thread reminds me of how I felt back then.

    Years later, I met the Stake Priesthood leader who had counseled with my disgruntled neighbor. I explained my experience with this neighbor and asked him if he knew what happened to make him so angry and hateful towards the church. The story he told me was exactly the opposite of the one my neighbor told. It was a real eye-opener to me to hear the Stake Leader explain what happened, and that’s one of the earliest cases where I learned that you can’t accurately understand any situation by only hearing one side of the story. Often times you can hear both sides, and still not understand much of the truth.

    I learned at that time that angry ex-members often tell an inaccurate story of what happened behind close doors between them and their leaders, and because forums like this aren’t fact-checked or in any way monitored, people can get on and say truly hateful and distorted tellings of events in their lives. I’m sure some of the stories are true, but I encourage people reading these accounts to consider the possibility that many of these stories are horribly disfigured representations of the events.

    Please consider that many of the religious leaders in these stories are good and honorable men and women who are doing their best to help people. They are men and women, just like us, who are called up and invited to serve in difficult and challenging callings, led by a set of guidelines and the spirit, dealing with some of the most tense and emotion-filled events in people’s lives, events that can’t be classified and “manualized”. So of course they aren’t perfect, of course every word of advice or decision isn’t perfect, they’re just people like you and me. And occasionally there’ll be a guy or gal who’s good at some aspect of the calling, but maybe doesn’t have the best social skills or empathy or maybe is just having a really bad day.

    Nearly every story told on here is the result of a leader whose primary purpose is to help people grow in purity and honor, and that goal is accomplished by lay members serving in leadership roles. Men and women in those roles have dozens if not hundreds of good experiences serving and loving their neighbors; hundreds of good experiences for every bad interaction that happens.

    I’ve never been in a bishopric or stake leadership position, but as executive secretary, ward council member, and clerk have witnessed literally thousands of interactions with Bishops and Stake Presidents, interactions that were positive uplifting experiences for all involved. I’ve seen a few real tragedies too, events and stories like those told here. But the ratio here in this forum is so imbalanced, skewed heavily to one side. Of course if John only invites people with bad experiences to tell their story, that’s all you’ll hear. He’s no longer inviting good LDS members to share their stories, he’s putting on tinted glasses and becoming like my neighbor of old, self-righteous, indignant, and judgmental. So Mormon stories will be a treasure trove of only negative stories, told only from one perspective, when truthfully there are hundreds if not thousands of incredibly good experiences in the church for every negative one of the severity described by those in this thread.

    For those of you who have had truly difficult and life-altering experiences, I hope you are able to find peace and comfort. I also hope you find it in your heart to forgive those who didn’t perform exactly how you’d have wanted them to. I know there are some truly horrible things that happen (as with any church, psychology practice, sociological institution, school, etc.) But that doesn’t mean the church as a whole isn’t an incredible organization blessing the lives of millions of people.

    If you think paying thousands of dollars to a psychologist, therapist, or other counselor is going to ensure that your interaction with those advisers is perfect, you stand to be very disappointed. My wife and I got some professional counseling the first few years of our marriage, and it was a terrible experience. But we’ve had some very helpful advice and support from our church leaders over the years. It all depends on the individuals you interact with,and much depends on the choices we make and things we do in those meetings.

    That said, those who were genuinely harmed by their leaders can and do have life-long struggles coping with and overcoming those experiences, and I hope those of you here in that situation can find peace and forgiveness! Those who caused you harm will be held accountable in the end, and you’ll have to choose whether or not to forgive and absolve, or bear witness against them. May your testimony then and now be truthful, because God will know the difference, and so will you.

    It’s really a shame that church leaders can’t openly discuss on-going cases like John’s. I’d love to have his church leaders come on and verify the events as John has described them, and explain their positions and choices. Wouldn’t that be something!? Haha. We’d get the full story from both sides.

    All those church leaders people here are criticizing are just a few bad seeds among tens of thousands of good men and women who do a wonderful job. They spend hundreds of thousands of hours in service and don’t make a dime.

    Way to call out the instances of imperfection and hold them up as the standard by which the church and all if it’s members are judged!

    I’m grateful for the church in my life and in the life of my family. I know it’s not perfect, but I don’t expect it to be. I don’t expect the people to be perfect. I just love them and am grateful for them.

    I’ve been offended equally by people inside the church and those outside of it. I’ve been blessed by people inside the church and by many outside of it. It doesn’t matter where you go, there are wonderful people and idiots. The sour apples make you appreciate the sweet.

    As difficult as it is for people to share their stories, and to remember all those hurt feelings, I hope you can all remember Christ’s admonition to forgive. It’s the only way to find true peace.

    Returning to the story of my friend’s father. I often stop by this man’s home when I go home to visit my parents. We visit, talk about his son, visit about the community. We talk about some common interests. I look at him and see a man who is trying to live his life as best he can, trying to be a Christian within his realm of influence. I admire that. But I think about how much he hates Mormons, how much of his time he’s spent ridiculing, chastising, and judging the members of the church. I think of all the countless positive interactions that could have been had between he and his Mormon neighbors over the past 40 years, and it makes me sad.

    Maybe there’s a lesson in there that will help some of you who are hurting, or maybe you’ll just attack me because my experience is different than yours. I don’t know. I felt like I should say something in defense of those amazing people who have served me and my family so well, and I did.

    Peace.

    1. The accusation that many of these stories are “horribly disfigured representations” of events that occurred in people’s lives is unfair. Of course there will be those who wish to lash out at the church and say defamatory things; however, I believe a more fair representation of the people who have come to this website to share their stories include those who have been deeply hurt, shamed, forgotten, or disillusioned by the church they gave their lives to. Many of these stories talk about rape and abuse. To tell any woman who has been raped to “remember Christ’s admonition to forgive” mirrors the very thing these women were told when speaking with their ecclesiastical leaders. To make blanket statements and with a few comments effectively write off the stories of people who have felt real hurt and been harmed by the experiences they share is beyond insensitive. To tell people who have experienced emotional traumas that you hope they find peace and “forgiveness” is condescending and sanctimonious. It’s simple to point the finger of judgment when you haven’t been in their shoes.

      Of all the things you said, the statement I take most issue with is this:

      “[John is] no longer inviting good LDS members to share their stories, he’s putting on tinted glasses and becoming like my neighbor of old, self-righteous, indignant, and judgmental. So Mormon stories will be a treasure trove of only negative stories, told only from one perspective, when truthfully there are hundreds if not thousands of incredibly good experiences in the church for every negative one of the severity described by those in this thread.”

      In these sentences you define your post and how it comes across: self-righteous, indignant, and judgmental. You’ll probably take issue with my comparison but before the Civil Rights movement in the United States, there was a minority voice crying “foul” to the oppression and hardships they were experiencing. At that time, for every one voice there were hundreds if not thousands of voices demanding to uphold the separation of race, to keep things the way they were. Where would the United States be if the leaders hadn’t listened to that minority voice and acted on it? Had they “shushed” those angry, accusatory voices because the “majority” of people were ok with how things were? The truth is, the “good LDS members” you talk about have countless forums in which they can share their stories. Those of us who have either been forced or suddenly find ourselves on the outside do not. And the truth of the matter, TJ, is the church is currently losing good members because of the very attitude you show in your comments. Think about that the next time you so flippantly judge those who you don’t consider to be “good LDS members.”

      For what it’s worth, I wish you well and hope you can somehow take to heart some of the things you’ve read and try to influence some positive changes. Christ left the 99 for the 1. The stories you read here represent the 1.

    2. I find your comments very hurtful. People inside and outside the church that rape and abuse others need to be held accountable for their actions. Victim blaming has no place in our society.

    3. I can agree with you that some/most/many church leaders are doing their best BUT BUT BUT when their best is damaging, that is the problem. I have no doubt the p-hood leaders who cared more for my abusive x’s repentance process, were doing what they thought best. YET I WAS THE VICTIM OF X’s RAPES over 29 years! And the p-hood men did not get how utterly horrible devastating that was for me. I was offered no comfort, understanding, positive counsel. Indeed, I/we were told not to discuss this with anyone, so no one in my ward knew except the bishop. Fourteen years later, I divorced him, against p-hood leaders counel. I married a NOMO and am shunned by my ward because I “should have known better.” I have yet…and I am 61, lifelong member, served in EVERY alling open to an LDS woman….found an LDS man/p-hood leader that truly deeply understands what a woman feels when she is raped. NEVER…So, the church has a LONG way to go in teahcing its men/p-hood leaders how to really help women who have been abused. Also in my callings I NEVER, NOT ONCE felt equal to the man/men I served under. Even if I was treated kindly, well, they were still the boss, made the final decision, etc.

      1. Amy & Sherry,

        I don’t mean to demean or disqualify you or your experiences. I have nothing but the deepest sense of anguish and sadness for what those who suffer physical, emotional, & sexual abuse. I am NOT victim blaming. I am merely suggesting that people reading these stories understand that when people are abused, they are filled with rage and anger, and they lash out, rightly so, at those who have harmed them, often causing collateral damage to those who bear no responsibility for their pain.

        The only way to know the full truth of a case is to be there when it happens. Period. The next best way to know the truth of a case is hear testimony from an unbiased observer who witnessed the exchange, or to have some documented proof of the results of the abuse (doctor’s testimony, video/photo record, etc.) The least accurate way to discern the full and unbiased truth is to hear a person filled with rage recount their experience and then assume that everything they said is 100% accurate.

        I was abused emotionally and physically by an violent drunken father, and know all too well what abuse feels like. I grew up in a part LDS home, my mom was active and my dad was a bastard who hated religion and loved his booze. I remember one night my dad came home drunk out of his mind, and couldn’t see to hold his keys to unlock the back door, so he kicked it in and woke us all up at 3 a.m. When he went to the stove and saw his food inside, he pulled it out. His food had been in the oven since dinner time, but my mom turned the stove off when she went to bed so she didn’t have to worry about burning the house down or drying out the food. But in his drunken state, all he knew is that the food wasn’t “warm enough” for him, so he proceeded to drag my mom up stairs by the hair and verbally abuse and threaten her in front of me. He then threw the plate of food at me, knocking me over and covering me in beans & saucy noodles, he then destroyed the kitchen (table, & dishes smashed to bits) in a drunken rage, and then got in his truck and shredded half the rubber off his tires as he tore off in his pick-up. Terrifying. Words can’t do justice to the experience, not even a little bit. But just because my mom and I were abused, and I feel the need to shout my experience from the rooftops, doesn’t give me the right to demean all men, to say that all fathers are evil and should be taken out and shot. All fathers are not evil, despite my personal experience.

        I tell that story, but that’s not the whole story. I didn’t know it at the time, and didn’t understand the truth until years later, but my dad was under some extreme stress with his business, a partner had burned him hard and essentially destroyed his business that night, a business he started and built himself over a ten year period, all gone in a flash. Embezzlement, lies, and total sabotage from a partner that he trusted. He was ruined financially by another man’s dishonesty. He’d tried to drown his sorrows in alcohol, came home later, and that one cold plate was the straw. He snapped. We all paid the price.

        I could have left that part of the story out, but I didn’t, to illustrate a point. He did a terrible thing, he had NO RIGHT to abuse us that night. He lost his business because somebody abused him, but he then lashed out at his family, losing his child’s respect, eventually losing his wife and losing the home he’d struggled so hard to provide.

        Often times those who are abused make statements like “he did this to me, and he got away with no repercussions. He got away without so much as a hand slap”, etc. That may be so! And it may not be! You may have absolutely NO IDEA what that man went through as a result of his sin. Or you may know all of it, every last detail. A forum like this is NOT a great way to know the truth of it.

        Sherry, I agree with you entirely that a patriarchal leadership is entirely inadequate for dealing with these traumatic and life-altering experiences. I was NOT suggesting in my post that men can understand what a woman or child feels when she is raped.

        But I would take it a step further. I don’t believe that any person, man or woman, can truly understand what it feels like to be raped unless they’ve experienced it themselves, nor does being raped ensure that you to understand what another rape victim in another situation experienced.

        That being said, in general, there has to be a better way of helping people in these crisis situations.

        1. No person, regardless of their age, race, or gender, should have to sit in counsel with a priesthood leader or counselor that he/she does not implicitly trust or feel has their best interest at heart.

        2. Rape victims should have the right to have their case reviewed by a counsel of women familiar with and trained to handle such cases, women with the authority to pursue disciplinary actions against the offender. Victims should also have the right to NOT have their case reviewed, by anybody in the church, should they so wish.

        3. The church should have a means whereby any church leader who learns about rape cases should be required to refer their ward members to professional counselors trained to cope with them properly.

        3. Perhaps Sherry and those with similar experiences should petition that the church have NO dealings with those suffering from rape, that it should be referred to the legal authorities in the same way murder cases are. Allegations of this nature need to be thoroughly investigated and tried in court.

        I’ve spent my entire life trying to forgive my father for those instances in my youth when he hurt me mentally, emotionally, and physically. Should I slander and defame him, accuse him of never doing any good thing? No, because he honestly spent thousands of hours selflessly serving others, fixing neighbors roofs and plumbing for free, building wheel chair ramps for elderly, etc. People loved him. But he abused us on occasion and I hated him for it. That’s my cross to bear, you have yours. I don’t want to carry the cross, and so I give up my anger and hatred to Christ and beg him to help me bear the cross, and he does.

        In the mean time, when people say things such as “oh, I love your dad, he’s one of the nicest men I’ve ever met”, I just say “well, I wish I’d have known that man, you got a better version of him than I did.” If they ask what I mean, I tell them the gist of what it was like growing up in my home. I don’t tell it in anger, I don’t discount his good qualities, I just let them know that alcohol makes some good men into terrible monsters, and it’s not the alcohol’s fault. Occasionally he gets wind of it, the stories get back to him, and he feels terrible for it. Now he’s an old man on his death bed. He knows how I feel, and he knows that I share those stories with others when they ask me to. I don’t lie about it, and I do my best not to exaggerate, and I try to help them understand the context so they can feel compassion for him if they so desire. He chose to consume it in excess, and he’s responsible for his choices while under the influence. He lost his wife and his children over it, but if I could have had a say in how things went down, I’d have liked him to spend a good year in jail for it. He wasn’t a church member, but how I would have loved to have my bishop counsel him to change his life, to give up alcohol, to beg our forgiveness and change himself so it didn’t happen again.

        After that really bad dinner episode, after destroying the kitchen, my dad dragged my mom into a back room and slammed the door so hard it warped the frame so that the door couldn’t be opened. My sister and I were crying our eyes out, my mom was curled up in a ball crying behind the door, traumatized. We didn’t know what to do, we couldn’t get in the room, we were scared he’d come back. About ten minutes later there was a knock at the door. A neighbor had heard the screaming, had called our bishop, and he had come with our home teacher, in the middle of the night. He got the door open and helped my family get through one of the worst nights of my life. Those men, who left their families to come help ours, were an incredible comfort and support. Say what you want, I can’t stop you, but all men are not monsters, all church leaders are not ignorant dolts, and the church as a well-organized religion is not as flawed as so many people claim. There’s room for improvement, for sure! But I wouldn’t toss it out with the bathwater and burn it in effigy, as so many on this forum like to do.

        If a black man robs you, you don’t say that all people of African descent are thieves. If a teenage driver texts her way through a red light and nearly kills you, you aren’t justified in calling all female teens crappy drivers. If a woman slinks around in slutty clothes and hits on your man, you don’t call all women sluts. If one particular church leader handles your case poorly, you have NO RIGHT to call all LDS leaders corrupt, or to blame the entire institution for his corruption. Lay blame where it lies, and take it no further, because once you begin assassinating the characters of an entire culture, religion, or people, you’ve gone too far.

        That’s what I was trying to explain in my first post, whether I did it well or not. Do NOT accuse me of victim blaming, because I’m not. I’m merely trying to help those outside of our culture who are reading these posts to understand that the darkest, worst, most horrific stories expressed here do not show a balanced and fair view of the church as a whole.

        Sherry, I’m so sorry for what you went through. I hope and pray that your x-husband and those who ignored your needs one day realize just how wrong they were and just how much damage they did to you. I believe they will, come judgement day.

        Still, I feel constrained to speak. So many people, rather than seeking retribution for the specific crime, work tirelessly to destroy and undermine all of the million acts of goodness and kindness that members of an organization perform, all in the hopes of preventing those instances where individual members abuse their post or power.

        When you’ve been that deeply hurt and violated, it’s an understandable sentiment! But is it justified? Do you know how many women have received positive and sufficient support from their compassionate and inspired leaders, and could not have gotten through their experiences without it?

        Take DK’s one paragraph story following my post. DK states that his/her bishop was “unempathetic” when responding to abuse allegations. Really? Is that the truth? Does DK have any idea what her bishop actually felt in that moment? What if he was actually heart-broken inside, what if this was a new bishop who had never heard of anything this tragic happening, and was himself in shock. Could DK have misinterpreted the “deer in the headlights” look on his face as unempathetic? We’ll never know, we weren’t there. DK was truly hurt by his response, further traumatizing him/her. But was the Bishop that cold, truly unempathetic? We will never know, because we don’t have his side of the story. We weren’t there. But we are left with the impression that Mormon Bishops are cold empathetic individuals who care nothing for the youth in their wards, which is as far from the truth as any accusation I’ve heard in my entire life. It may be the case in this instance! But it certainly is NOT the case throughout the church! Am I blaming DK for her story? Of course not! It’s a terrible tragedy! Her abuser should face criminal charges! I’m not blaming DK at all!

        I’m simply stating, because it’s absolutely true, that a thread like this where stories are requested to serve a particular purpose (defame the church, it’s leaders, it’s parents, it’s men) is the same thing as setting up a court where people can only be accused and there is no defense. A thread format of THIS NATURE places the accusations, judgments, and penalties at the feet of the entire church and all of it’s honest & good members, not at the feet of those individuals who were disobedient to God’s laws or who abused their roles as leaders.

        John, as much as I love him and his work on Mormon Stories, may be using the power of his network to open up threads like this for a reason. He’s never used this format before now. Why? Are all of these negative threads fishing for the worst stories imaginable suited to a purpose? I don’t know, but it looks to me like he is fishing for something. It looks to me like he wants to start his private practice living off of those who are angry at the church. He wants to generate clients. And why not? There are a LOT of people in need, a lot of people who would benefit from his compassionate and loving character, a lot of people who would be better served getting professional counseling from someone trained to deal with tragic experiences of the nature discussed here, not people called up out of the congregation to serve and judge these incredibly complex and difficult situations. I’d go to him if I were dealing with something traumatic in my life!

        But what will John be doing in those professional sessions? I’ll wager he’ll be doing what tens of thousands of bishops and stake president’s around the world are trying to do – his very best.

        Will he succeed in every case; will everybody love and adore him? Will every word of counsel and advice be exactly correct for his clients? No way! It doesn’t work that way.

        Some of John’s clients may even be vocal about it and suggest that psychologists or family counselors are all a bunch of quacks! They’re not, but there’ll be a thread somewhere, in a forum like this one, where the worst stories imaginable will be correlated and presented as “standard fare”, where only those with the worst experiences can voice their dissatisfaction. Will they be truthful when they describe their interaction with John? We’ll never know.

        Point being: Listen with compassion. Love in earnest. Be extremely careful when judging another person, or an entire group of people.

        I spent five years in college studying psychology, sociology, and family counseling, and I’m telling you, it’s impossible to handle every situation perfectly. I decided not to pursue my PhD in counseling and changed career direction because I knew I couldn’t cope with the kind of tragedy I’d have to face on a day-to-day basis. I deeply respect those who can and do it well. If I were called to be bishop, I’d have to respectfully decline the calling, but I deeply respect those who accept the invitation to bear that responsibility and do it well.

        I have the greatest respect and hope for those who have posted their tragic stories in this thread. But ultimately I come to this web site for a fair and balanced view of the Mormon religion, something that’s desperately needed – and it seems to me that Mormon Stories is becoming far less fair and far less balanced.

        Had John opened up a corresponding thread entitled “Stories of Women (and Men) Who Feel They Have Been Blessed and Served Compassionately by Mormon Patriarchy”, as I know he may have done at one point, I might feel otherwise.

        I was blessed and served compassionately in my time of need, have been so served on many occasions, and felt the need to vocalize that here. I did not intend in any way to blame the victims or validate the crimes, only provide a much needed measure of balance.

  137. I experienced abuse of all kinds throughout my childhood. When I was 12 years old I went into my bishop and tried to tell him what has happening to me. He laughed it off and said that this kind of inappropriate behavior could never happen in such a “nice” home as mine. I felt so discounted and my cries for help were certainly not heard. Later, I was raped on a date by a member of the Institute Seminary Council at Utah Valley State College. I told my bishop what had happened and he was very cold, business-like, and unempathetic. There was no church court held or any kind of church discipline for the individual who had hurt me so deeply. I received zero support. Their lack of understanding was extremely, extremely damaging and only further exacerbated the PTSD that I was experiencing. I’m still, twenty years later, trying to work through all the betrayal.

  138. My story:

    1) Parents converted before we kids were born, because my father loves dominance and my mother loves patriarchy and power.
    2) Mom backed up all my dad’s abuses, including dragging my sister down the hall, threatened any of us who spoke with similar treatment.
    3) Dad became bishop. My mom spent her time making sure that none of the abuse in the family could be recognized, telling the ward members that my sister was mentally deficient, disrespectful and should be considered as a servant to anyone who needed housework, no need to pay.
    4) Dad threatened my brothers that if they were not ready to become powerful mormon men (dominant and tyrannical) then they were not his sons.
    5) Mom continued to use the Mormon-network to house my sister in all the singles wards and then family wards she has lived in, making sure that people understand how unstable and mentally ill my sister is.
    6) Dad died of kidney failure, which we kids opted to not have treated, inasmuch as he was also a predator in the nursing home and attacked the nursing staff.
    7) My sister lives barely able to care for herself, on disability, afraid to come out of her apartment or be seen by anyone. She rocks through the night, which provides soothing to her soul when she is otherwise consumed with the constant fear we all had, during the nights.

  139. My story is much the same as many posters before me. I was raised in the church and went through the motions of doing the right things.Some years ago I emigrated with my then husband and children. The domestic violence/abuse I had always suffered at the hands of my husband increased dramatically when I was so far away from my established support network. eventualyy he began abusing my childrren also, and ultimately raped me repeatedly. I went to three different Bishops, over a period of several years, for support. The first listened and the sum total of his advice was to dress pretty for him and obey my husband and he gave us a movie voucher to go on a date…the second Bishop was ther during the worst of the abuse. At one point i needed to remove my children secretly from my home to protect them from their father. then when the abuse towards one of my children was so severe that she was frightened for her life I called my Bishop, he saw the evidence, the blood on the floor, the physical injury etc, he proceeded to tell me that there are two sides to every story, and that I should bake my husband an apple pie, read the scriptures with him and go to temple with him. He also decided to swear a n affidavit to th court stating that there was no abuse towards my children. i don’t know if I will ever forgive that..hte priesthood holders closed ranks against me and around my ex. I moved stakes. The final Bishop coerced tithing foirm me, i weas left with about $30US$ a week for food for myaself and my five children. i starved myself. I was barely eating. i am still anaemic as a result of this period in my life. On one occasion my friends tried to take me to bishop to request emotional and financial support from church. Ther bishop refused to allow my friend and her husband to sit in with me. He shouted at this good brother “This is Bishop’s arena now” (meaning his office) then he threatened me after they left and I requested they stay with “do you want me to disclose to them intimate details of your marriage?I asked if he was referring to thr matrimonial rape, he said he was. he was willing to coerce me into obeying him by disclosing private matters I had cnfided in him. he then proceedeed tom shout at me that I was only after one thing and to “Cut to the chace because it is all about wanting money”. even then when he apologised 7 weeks later I decided to try to go to church one more time. He told me to ask my releif society president if I was ever in need. I went three days only eating weetbix or toast, so asked my RS president for welfare. She and Bishop decided to make me wait for 14 days, starving, literally starving for want of food. Everything in my cupbaord was hoarded for my children. then i received a truly evil message from RS president telling me that she andbishop didn’t feel I gave enough service to have earned welfare. I was at that time involved in giving support to several families with disabled children, I was involved in an online charity and doing voluntary arts programmes in several schools, as well as running an online support group for other targets of domestic violence. i may not have done the service they expected but (not that I was counting) I am confident I was doing more than most ward members…thisn is my story. I no longer attend church and my emotional healing can be dated back to the week I decided to throw in the towel and not submit myself to the pain of weekly attendance. One final thought – I despise the term UNRIGHTEUS DOMINION – lets call a spade a spade – It is abuse plain and simple. thanks for reading.

  140. I am Japanese woman age 59. I was not so good in English in school. I attend free English class by Mormon missionaries. I listen to lessons, read Book of Mormon, pray and receive testimony. Parents not too mad. I get baptized. I study gospel, do many church calling and keep commandments. I learn we are family centered church. But in Japan almost all members are young girls and very few boys. After few years I realize I have very difficult choice. Marry to non-member in Japan and probably go inactive, never marry and stay active in family church, go to Utah to find Mormon boy to marry. Pray and feel spirit go to Utah.

    In Japan I am not so cute, maybe average. But in Utah many boys think I am very cute. Too many boys, I don’t know what to do. I refuse to go on date with stranger. Other Japanese girls don’t like me. I make friend with Asami other cute Japanese girl. Asami has bad past. Sleep with missionary. After missionary transfer, get baptized. Later missionary confess and tell. Asami repent and mission president say she not need excommunicate. She come to Utah because members in Japan not forgive her and mean to her. Japanese girls in Utah still not forgive when find out bad past.

    Mark is nice guy friend with Asami and forgive her. He has friend Scott with bad past before repent and mission to Japan. Mark think maybe Scott and Asami be good couple. He arrange first date and it works. They fall in love eventually get married in temple. Asami is so grateful to Mark. Promise him to do anything to repay this kindness. As favor Mark ask Asami to arrange first date with me.

    Mark quickly fall in love with me. He is so nice. Go on date almost every day. -Seems dreams come true. Mark want to kiss me but in Japan church teach kiss wrong and save for marriage. Mark think different. He kiss me even when I say no. Say I am too cute. Can’t resist. After a while it is not so bad. Maybe Mark not wrong. Asami and Scott kiss for hours. One night Mark touch me. At first I think it is joke. I am small woman. Mark only touch shirt and padded bra. Not feel me at all. Mark think we do big sin. We confess to bishop. He says we need to get married. Not worthy for temple. Mark give me engagement ring. Does not repent. He touch me more places, inside cloths. Too scared to stop him. Already in trouble, a little more is not much worse.

    Mark family all active in church and do not like me. Mother say to me- we don’t want any JAPS in this family. Little brother call me monkey face. Become my nick name. We have marriage in church gym. Mark family not come and not help pay. Only few friends come. My parents fly from Japan for joke wedding. Parents not impressed. Feels like funeral not wedding.

    My father pay for us to come to Japan and have simple traditional Japanese wedding. I love my Japanese wedding. Many old friends come. Never forget. Then Father pay for week at small honeymoon inn in mountains with many hot springs. Mark very patient to me. Happy wonderful time.

    Father tell Mark to change college major. Study forestry and later join company. Father and friends start wood import company long time before and make more money than most. Mark manage forests in America for import wood to Japan in future. Father tell Mark to change family name to our family name. I am oldest daughter, one sister and no brother. Then smooth inherit position in company. Mark not submissive to my father and reject suggestion.

    Mark want to be doctor. We have no money. After marry Mark get job in food store and work all the time. I try to get job but English not good enough. Mark grades fall and he later flunk big admission test to medical school. He get mad and yell at me. Wish he never marry me. But too late we already to have baby.

    I think I am too small and too young to have baby. Church teach must have many children. Not right to prevent it. I am afraid of birth control pills or plastic device put in me. Mark want to do it almost every night. We try condom but come off. I become pregnant. Mark say it is the will of God.

    I almost die having baby. Very depressed after birth and no help from family or friend. After birth father send money to help with baby. He request no tithing on his money and I obey. Pay tithing on Mark money only. I not tell Mark about extra money from Japan.

    Bishop let us go to temple to be sealed. No family no friend come. I do not feel spirit and temple seems very strange to me. Not understand. Garment very bad. Itch and bunch up. Don’t fit. I wear children cloths. Don’t have big hips or chest like poineer woman. Not cute enough in garment any more. Afraid of another baby. Only way to prevent don’t let husband do it. Too tired to sleep with husband. Mark tell bishop and he tell me. Must submit to husband. I say ok, maybe later. Maybe next year.

    Go to church every week. Members do not like mixed race couple. Scott and Asami experience same thing. Move far away. Revelation give priesthood to blacks bring joy to my heart. Maybe more tolerance but not happen. No callings for Mark or me. Except later when have children. Work in nursery. Clean church almost every week. Do visit teaching as junior companion when members not welcome very much. Want to please God even if members of church impolite.

    Mark look at dirty pictures of naked women. I pretend not to notice. Mark drink beer after work and we pretend not happening. I feel guilty for not pleasing husband for driving him to this evil. Mark get very angry and force me to do it with him sometimes. I have another baby. All problems get worse. I pray and study scripture even more but not feel the same any more. I talk to bishop. He not understand. Tell me Mark is head of house. I must obey and please him. I already trying best to do that. Not working.

    Mark work at Home Depo. He go on business trip for week. Return home very happy and celebrate. Don’t care any more let him do it. Several times next few days. He is different. New wild things and it hurts. I get painful sores. Doctor says I have herpes. No cure but treatment help. Doctor also say I to have another baby. Twins this time find out later. Not able to birth babies. Emergency operation. Barely survive. Babies in hospital for many weeks. Can’t pay bill. Go bankrupt.

    I know husband cheated. Only one way to get herpes. I know I did not cheat. Can’t afford divorce. I focus on 4 daughters. Survive on money from Japan. Not easy. Teach daughters to have good heart traditional Japanese way. Church teach obedience. Daughters grow and very beautiful. Very smart. Popular at school. Shunned at church. When in primary I make it not so bad. Mark not help at all. Teenage years very bad. Many ward members hate me for defending my girls. American daughters do not understand traditional Japanese mother. Understand Japanese language but won’t speak and can’t write. First daughter go inactive age 15. Same age I join church. Younger sisters all follow.

    Daughters go to college and dress like harlots and sleep with boyfriend and drink beer. I cry and pray for them every day and night. Strange things happen. All daughters graduate and get good job. All daughters find decent boyfriend and marry well. All daughters have happy family and nice children. Not in church! I thought not possible to be happy after reject church after not keep commandments. All daughters treat me with more respect than anyone ever has. As long as I not mention church. Daughters know all about Mark. Tolerate but no respect.

    After last daughter go to college, Mark less discrete about cheating. Many affairs. I feel like his house servant. Marriage over. Too old and inconvenient to divorce. We only roommates. Ignore each other as much as possible. Ignore bishop. Mark first big calling second counselor to Sunday school president.Study to prepare lessons take much time. I have free time. I start reading more about church. Many years pass and I read more and more. Not believe many terrible things on internet.

    Then church official website confirm some of worst things. All prophets racist before priesthood revelation. Book of Abraham made up. Book of Mormon translated with magic stone in hat. Worst is Prophet Joseph Smith plural wives. More than 30 wives. Other men‘s wives. Teenage wives. Wives before coming of Elijah restore sealing power. Lies to wives about wives. Find out polygamy still big problem in Utah more than 100 years later.

    I want to believe but can’t. I read many internet site defending church and not make sense. I feel spirt really strong when young. Older realize how can it be true? Spirit maybe wrong sometimes. Remain open to more teachings. Maybe my life is punishment for chastity sins before marriage, for not pay tithing on money from Japan, not obedient enough to husband, never learn good English. Many reasons.

    I think I return to Japan and apologize to family. Parents very old need help. Sister and husband lead company and have enough money maybe support me. Maybe I work as receptionist for family company. Should have married Japanese boy who accept father suggestion. Mark should have married big Utah girl with curves to fill garment. Keep him away from other women and dirty picture. Bishop very stupid tell us to marry. I go to Mormon English class in Japan and quietly warn young Japanese girl. Ok to learn English from missionaries. Big mistake to listen to missionary lesson believe church teachings. Some good teachings but too many lies. Not good life as Japanese Mormon wife.

  141. I’m fourth generation LDS, BIC, Returned Missionary, married in the temple and have served in many church poaitions. I have finally reached a “tipping point” in regards to my (and my family’s) membership in The Church. While I’ve always been bothered and irritated by many condescending, self important, heavy handed church leaders (including some at the top) – the threatened excommunication of John Dehlin has “broken the camels back”. If The Church moves ahead with John’s excommunication this coming week, I will do everything in my power to remove myself and family from The Church. I simply cannot stand the tyranny and spiritual abuse any longer.

    I love Mormon Stories and thank John and his team of researchers and guests for all that they have done to assist me and my family in our faith crisis. It is they who have helped us remain in The Church these past few years. If they are thrown out of The Church – They certainly don’t want us either. May God bless you and your family John.

  142. In seminary our teacher was talking about marriage and when to have children. As we are told to have children young this topic came up. I stated that I didn’t want to have children at a young age. Completing college before starting a family was very important to me. I was told to stay after class for my comment. Afterwards the seminary teacher spoke with me and asked me what would happen if my husband wanted kids while I was still in college. I laughed and said we would talk and he would see things my way. While the statement was a joke on my part there was truth to the comment as well. He told me I was being selfish and waiting to have children was not wise. His words struck me as odd. To me I believed I deserved to grow up and into my own person before bringing anther life into this world. I never returned to seminary. Reading the stories above I’m so glad that I was a strong willed young woman that had a unfortunate interaction with a seminary teacher that made me question it all and leave it behind. I felt my worth was larger than just replenishing the earth. I believed I had more to offer the world than having a child when I was a child myself. Reading the stories above I can also see I saved myself from further heartache by leaving it all behind. There is no way I would have been able to cope with being a grown woman in the church or a mother in the church. The way women are treated in the church is demeaning and dated. At the old age of 25 I married my wonderful husband. Those in my mothers ward were so afraid I would never marry. They asked her if she was so relieved I was finally getting married. My mother is great and just smiled and said not relieved, happy because we love the man she is marrying. Six years later we are still very much in love and happy with just the two of us. Its amazing that in Utah we were able to find each other. Raised in the church with no ambition to stay in it.

  143. After sixteen years of marriage and three children, my priesthood-holding husband has an affair. But it isn’t a full-fledged affair; he has made out with her on several occasions, but never slept with her (so he says). I drag him to the bishop. After my husband confesses, the bishop asks me what course of action I think should be taken. I am surprised; why is he asking me, a lowly sister? I sit up a little taller in my chair, and tell him that I am ill-equipped to deal with this behavior. (I grew up with an LDS alcoholic/cheater for a father; our bishop let that situation go on and on, and it was hard enough on me. I cannot handle ANY degree of such behavior in my husband.) I tell him that I need a separation if not a divorce. The bishop immediately shoots down my need. The only ecclesiastical consequence my husband receives is a two-week vacation from his seminary calling and the sacrament. But I am eyed suspiciously, as though it were my fault. Our daughter is in his seminary class, and she is humiliated, unable to explain to her curious seminary friends why her dad can’t teach for two weeks. Our bishop’s main focus in our visit is keeping everything hush-hush. I’m not supposed to tell ANYone what my husband did; this is pounded into me. My mouth feels taped shut at the moment when my world has turned upside down and I desperately need support. The bishop shows absolutely no empathy to me for what I’m going through. He offers my husband a blessing; as he shuffles us out the door, I have to ask for one. “Just go home and love each other,” is our bishop’s best advice.

    Fast forward ten years. My husband and I have severely struggled in our marriage. It’s been a nightmare. We’ve hung on by a thread, and it has negatively affected the kids. Because I have faithfully served in my “divine role” for decades, I have no career skills, no way to financially support myself–hence, no means of meeting my own emotional needs. I am completely trapped. I beg the Lord for death–many, many times. I had desperately needed that separation, but in fear, I followed my bishop’s counsel rather than my own inner voice. My health has completely deteriorated from the constant marital stress, and I am now chronically ill–unable to work anymore, etc.

    Around this time, I ask a different bishop to release me from the R.S. presidency because of my severe illness. He releases me, and then we move away from the ward. After a few more years, I express support for Kate Kelly on Facebook. Immediately following my post, this former bishop posts an accusatory meme: “If you have to lie about it, cover it up, or delete it, you shouldn’t be doing it.” It’s crystal clear that he is publicly, passive-aggressively accusing me of lying about my reason for needing the release. I had never lied about anything to this man. I didn’t even know Ordain Women existed when I was in his ward.

    These aren’t the only stories. I could fill pages.

  144. I have suffered from the structure of the church. I have suffered from priesthood bullying. Words cannot express my disappointment. I am a seventh generation TBM & I have always given God 100% because I love Heavenly Father.
    I have three times received terrible and demeaning ‘priesthood blessings’. Once for not doing my calling the way someone else would have, once for not seeing through a man’s perspective, and once I was blessed with sycho blessings to see into the eternities by a crook.
    Never again.
    I have been told to submit to wickedness (“because it will be on the leader’s head”), I have been physically abused by men, emotionally abused, and I have suffered like Job.
    I like some LdS people, but the authority structure still triggers my PTSD. I hope something structurally changes to give women dignity and a voice. Current church conditions and patterns are terminal not eternal. Ask me how I know.

  145. My husband and I were both mistreated in a pre-marriage temple interview. The stake counselor asked and asked and asked in many different ways if we were worthy (this is individually), are you sure there is nothing you need to clear up beforehand, etc. etc. Afterwards I spoke to my soon to be husband about the questioning and how he had made me feel like I wasn’t worthy. This person that I had never met me made me feel as if I had no power or confidence. He made me question my own marriage. I actually thought to myself “Have I been forgiven, am I clean and worthy to go to the temple, or does he have some insight into me that I can’t see”. Totally unsettling to a young person about to be married. My husband received the same treatment, but was asked more probing sexual questions and was equally disturbed.

    I have had more positive experiences than negative ones with men in the church, however this one was major to me because it shadowed an important event in my life, my marriage to a wonderful man and his to a wonderful woman.

  146. I was raised in a TBM family; I am the oldest son.

    My father was a good provider for our family. We weren’t wealthy, but his income was steady and my parents were frugal. Our basic needs were always met and looking back on my childhood I believe that we considered ourselves to be a happy family. Certainly others in our ward thought so.

    Anger and temper were an issue with my father. He did have a stressful job, which I completely understand from my own career. But his outlet too often was to come home and vent his frustration at the expense of his wife and children. I remember being somewhat resentful that my mother would not stand up for herself or (as a rule) her children. Over time, as I became older and more aware, I recognized that she had completely bought into the idea of patriarchy and believed that it was necessary, appropriate, and even a righteous thing for her to be subservient to my father. I don’t remember her being afraid of my father, but I know that his children did have these feelings. In the era when we were raised (I am middle-aged now), my father would not have been considered physically abusive. But all of his children received regular spankings, sometimes for no reason. Of course we survived the physical discipline. It was tougher to get over the emotional abuse.

    My mother suffered the most. Although I know she loved my father and was grateful to him for many things, her many skills and endless talents were not acknowledged. I never remember my father complimenting her in public for anything. He admonished her daily for what he saw as her many shortcomings, which no one who knew her or was a frequent visitor to our home would have acknowledged. Our house was clean, but according to my father, not clean enough. We were well fed and my mother cooked for us with love, but Dad seemed to find fault with something in every meal. But we made it through.

    My mother stood by my father in his every endeavor. He had a side ‘career’ as a sports official, which didn’t make him much money but he enjoyed it so my mother completely supported him. Sometimes family ‘vacations’ were nothing more than traveling with Dad to a game. I don’t recall my parents ever going on a trip just the two of them. Both Mom had Dad had typical Church callings: Mom in the Primary Presidency and music; Dad the Elder’s Quorum President and later the High Council.

    My parents were both raised in active Mormon families, but one thing was different about their backgrounds. My mother’s family was lucky to have seen success financially and were considered well-off. My father’s family was considered poor. And yet my father constantly belittled members of his wife’s family. Those in his family could do no wrong. My mother kept her silence.

    Shortly after my father retired, my mother received a substantial inheritance from her family. My parents had been very conservative with their finances over the course of their lives, and initially were cautious with the investments they made with this windfall. Soon after, a close family member of my father approached him about making an investment in a new company. Although the initial investment would only take a portion of their liquid assets, in order to invest they would have to put everything at risk. My father was for it. Mom was against. It took some time for a decision to be made, a time I remember as very trying for my mother. She was so proud of the successes of her family and felt a responsibility to make good decisions about their legacy. She finally gave in. I will always remember that when she told us what they were doing she seemed so defeated, saying “we’ve fasted, we’ve prayed, and your Dad has made a decision.”

    The investment soured quickly. The company went through all of its capital in short time. It was forced to shut down and declare bankruptcy. Soon there were lawyers to hire to try and save what was at risk. It took years to sort out the mess. In the end, we realized it would have been better not to spend the money to fight: it just delayed the inevitable. Bank accounts were drained, the house they had worked so hard to pay for was sold to pay creditors. All they have left now is Social Security and some retirement funds that couldn’t be touched by creditors. Dad and Mom live in an apartment paid for by their children.

    This is a sad situation, but I am grateful that Mom and Dad still love each other. They love their children and grandchildren. They believe that their difficulties are temporal and will not exist or even matter in the next life. Maybe, but I have questions. What if my mother had grown up in an environment where men and women were considered equal? What if my father had grown up in an atmosphere where women were treasured not just for their curves and ability to bear and nurture children but valued also for their minds? Would the last ten years of their lives have been different? And happier? Why don’t we value the opinions of women like we do men?

    Perhaps this story is just about money. Or is it?

  147. Reading the comments here has filled me with many thoughts and emotions. I am sorrowful for all those who have been hurt by the practices of the church and its members, angry towards those who continue to abuse others and thankful to my mother for showing me a better way.

    Many church members (including leadership) continue to use spiritual abuse (and other forms of abuse) to dominate and control others. It is abuse because it is about power, control, domination, and fear.

    I was unable to articulate and understand this concept until I read “The Primer” which is a Guidebook for Law Enforcement and DHS in Utah and Arizona regarding fundamentalist Mormon families. I have included a link below. Pages 45-48 define and outline domestic violence and abuse. After reading that I can see how this abuse is uses again and again in the church to control the membership. Everyone needs to know how to identify abuse and how it is perpetuated so that we can all strive to eliminate abuse, in all its forms, both in and out of the church.

    http://www.familysupportcenter.org/Primer.pdf

    How has Mormon patriarchal structure has harmed me? As a man I will say that it has harmed me by surrounding me with examples of abusive men and held them as as role models and taught me poor behaviors which I continue to strive and eradicate in myself. It has also harmed me in that my wife, who was also raised in the church, continues to struggle with my refusal to accept the existence of gender roles and stereotypes and criticism of church leaders when they continue to teach them.

    I want to include an answer for my mother who I am continually grateful for making me aware of the discrimination and injustice both in and out of the church; but, as a lifelong faithful member would never post to such a public place.

    My father has caused much harm through his bad acts, many of which have been excused due to his patriarchal position…

    Early in my parents marriage, my father quit his job and decided to go back to graduate school without discussing it with my mother.
    While my father was attending graduate school, she already having her masters degree, started teaching full time at BYU. She learned that she received 1/2 the salary of male professors of equal qualifications. When she challenged this she was told that women were paid 1/2 salary because husbands were supposed to be supporting their wives so her income was only supplemental. She explained that her husband was in graduate school (at BYU) and therefore not working. They then went on to said that the policy was also due to the fact that women were to be in the home and if women were paid full salary they might be tempted to not fulfill their divine roll…

    I recall that we once had a bishop that would not let women pray in sacrament meeting. She challenged him regarding that and when he would not change his practices she took it to the stake president, he finally agreed to allow women to pray in sacrament meeting but only the closing prayer, because the meeting had to be opened by a priesthood holder. There are many examples like this where she pointed out and fought against these type injustices.

    I share the following example as it has inspired me to find ways to do what is right when the church continues to have teachings, polices or practices that injure it’s members.

    When I was growing up the LDS kids were instructed not to participate in the sex education portion of health class which was given in the 6th and 9th grade. She became the sex education instructor for the school district and would encourage parents in the church to allow their children to attend by using her membership as a way to assure them that nothing contrary to the church’s teachings would be taught. This allowed many more member children to receive some basic sex education, which is vital to a full and healthy life.

    Thanks mom, for teaching me that sex education is no different than nutritional educational. You can get through life without it but having an understanding of even just the basics can lead to a much fuller life: physically, emotionally and spiritually.

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