Tuesday, March 22, 2011

He's Still Ex-Mormon -- And Loving It

To: Abbottsville Fourth Ward
From: Donna Banta
Subject: He's another year older, and another year happier.

Since its beginning in September of 2009, Ward Gossip has poked fun at practically all aspects of Mormon culture, practice, and doctrine, including:

In all, I've posted 85 times, received over 450 comments, and dozens of personal emails. Most people who write are kind and encouraging. Some respectfully disagree. But so far, I have only been flamed once. It was exactly one year ago, on Mark's birthday.

Less than ten minutes after I posted "At 53, He's Still Happy, Healthy, and Ex-Mormon -- Don't You Hate That?" I received a private e-mail from an old "friend" from my childhood ward who told me I was "condescending," "hurtful," "narrow-minded," "uneducated," and "bitter." Then she called me a liar and suggested that I "just go on with my life" and keep my opinions to myself.

She closed her thoughts with, "I hope Mark enjoys his birthday and wish you the best with your family."

This bizarre missive confirmed a theory I have long believed.

Nothing pisses off a Mormon more than the existence of an openly happy Ex-Mormon.

In that spirit, I will again pay tribute to my husband of 30 years, and brace myself for the response.

Mark Steven Banta was born on March 22, 1957, in San Jose, California. He was raised a Mormon in a loving home. He enjoyed participating in church as a child, but grew weary of the faith as an adult, and eventually abandoned it.

Mormons are taught that those who leave are lazy, sinful, and doomed to a life of misery and suffering.

It hasn't exactly turned out that way for Mark, at least not over the past year. Consider the following common assumptions.

Ex-Mormons are bitter, angry, and miserable.
Not my sweetheart. Anyone who saw him at the 2010 Ex-Mormon Conference can tell you that, or at the Hotel Utah Saloon, or facing off Steve in a break-neck bowling competition, or at a certain restaurant in Berlin, Germany during the wee morning hours.

People who leave the church face financial ruin.
Well, he's not exactly rolling in it. But Mark continues to live on a quiet street in San Francisco, affords visits to Texas and Germany to see his children and granddaughter, and continues to hold a job in a bad economy. Believe it or not, eliminating tithing actually improved his bank balance!

People who leave the church like to look at porn.
Actually Mark's tastes are for the most part G-rated, except for church history books.

If a man leaves the church, his children will become drug addicts, runaways, and felons.
If appearances are any guide . . .
Our daughter, Emily, and Daniel

Our son, Marky, Meera, and baby

People leave Mormonism because they want to violate the Word of Wisdom, break the Sabbath and associate with bad influences.
Um, well that's true actually.
Mark has decided not to spend this life preparing for the next, and has been blessed accordingly.

As always, I am serving his requested dinner, this year stuffed bell peppers, baked potatoes, green beans, homemade apple pie, and a good bottle of wine. So there is no need, Abbottsville Fourth, to drop by with cakes, casseroles and a birthday message from The Ensign. Understand that if you do come over, you will see some very happy Ex-Mormons. -- And it will probably make you really really mad.
Happy birthday, honey.

NorCal Ex-Mormons Were In the News Again!

These ran on Sunday, March 20, 2011:
See Mark's picture in the paper! Along with Steve, Sarah, Ali, and me. Unfortunately this was taken on Easter Sunday of last year, so our turnout was relatively small. (We were six in total at the San Francisco Ferry Building, one declined to be photoed.)
This is an interview with former NorCal Ex-Mormon, Kerry Rutz, whom we miss.
Another interview with a fantastic NorCal Ex-Mormon.
They quoted me in this one, but got my age wrong -- I'm now 52 (sigh)


  1. I am totally fine with your husband being a happy ex-Mormon. I'm pretty much fine with anyone that is happy, regardless of their beliefs.

    I'm a happy Mormon. If I were Baptist, Jewish, or even Hindu, I would probably still be happy.

    I'm most happy when I am around people who are non-judgemental. Almost all of my friends are non-judgemental Mormons - they exist. I have found it more difficult to find non-judgemental ex-Mormon friends

  2. Happy Birthday, Mark! I hope you have a great day.
    Donna, let us know if you get any more "friends" projecting all their bad qualities onto you. That was interesting.
    Good quote in there, ya the church is so all about secrets.

  3. Thanks for your well wishes to Mark, Lisa!!

    JustMe, thanks for reading.

    Deb, no kidding about projecting. I wrote back to her a couple of days later and suggested that she might speak better for her church if she softened her tone. (sigh)

  4. I miss NorCal. I was raised there! Right down the road from San Jose (well depending on what you consider "right down the road"). I often think about how sick and twisted it is that the way mormon leaders keep their members is by telling them these lies about what will happen if people leave their religion. SICK. Happy bday to your hubby.

  5. "Actually Mark's tastes are for the most part G-rated, except for church history books."

    ::snort!:: Ain't that the truth.

    I know you, Donna, and other exmos will understand what I mean when I say -- I didn't know what happiness was until I walked away from the church. Hell, I didn't even know what it meant to be alive. Now I know both in a way I never thought possible. It must be all that beer clouding my perception of reality. (heh)

    Happy Birthday Mark!

  6. Becky, I agree. It is sick. Of course, it's the only option when a church doesn't have enough positives to encourage people to stay.

    Mark grew up in the Almaden Valley area of San Jose. We lived down there many years ago, and I did a stint as a substitute teacher "down the road" in Morgan Hill.

  7. CD, right, it's the beer. lol

    Yes, I understand, as do other exmos. But most TBM's don't and never will. Way back when I tried to explain why I left to my believing family and friends. What a frustrating experience. If I had it to do over again I'd just say, "I was offended and I wanted to sin." It's what they want to hear, and it's true, essentially. (Although not in the way they think.)

  8. (I posted something here earlier, but it disappeared. Take two ...)

    A warm-hearted happy birthday to Mark!

  9. Ahab, I don't know how your comment got deleted -- only that it wasn't by me!! Thanks for reposting.

  10. This warmed my heart! You have a beautiful family!

  11. Donna, wow, where did you get that picture of me as a kid on my tractor? I remember tearing around the neighborhood on that. The neighbors probably thought I was a 4-year old terror.

    As usual, you are very insightful about our lives in and out of the LDS Church. I know I had blinders on about the Church for years.

    Reading the comments people leave on your blog always reminds me what a wonderful group of people ex-Mormons are.

    Thanks for the thoughts, and your love!


  12. Thanks Leah!

    Also, thanks Mark, I hope you enjoyed your birthday.

  13. Wow what an amazing blog entry Donna! May I copy your idea for my blog a little? I will also be linking on facebook to your blog cause, well, this is awesome! Congrats you have done an amazing job, I must spend more time here!


  14. Norm, what an amazing compliment! Yes, you can copy. I'll link back to your blog as well. I'm really glad you started one, btw.

  15. Donna, you continue to hit the mark and even tread somewhat softly compared to my more hard edged in your face style but even when a subject is treated as gently as you are so skilled at doing, it still reams the devout to no end. I just get a kick out of how sanctimonious so many will sound when feigning to be "tolerant" of your happiness while suggesting you're mean for saying you're happy.

    It's true, the best revenge is success. I went to my family reunion last summer and while they all know I'm out of the church they held out hope that it was just a phase, that I was going to get cancer again or some sort of horrific trauma to help me come crawling back. Not only am I happier but my life is on a wonderful track, my marriage probably the most fullfilling and connected, and my relationship with my LDS kids the very best it could be. My grandkids swirl around my feet and adore me in spite of how frightening and dangerous I am, my kids call home each week, we're not broke (yet) and my husband and I fill our days doing things we both love and feel passionate about. I get to contribute to my community with various endeavors and every penny I contribute to a worthy transparant charity is accounted for and helps me believe I'm actually making a difference in someones life.

    Meanwhile back at the farm my siblings struggle because their kids are drifting from the church, several are stuck in empty cold marriages and remain out of obligation and duty. They have no time for fun, travel, or to complete the necessary home projects because church sucks so much time and money and if they do travel it's to go to a temple and spend three hrs. on their wide arses hoping that what they're doing will save a really dead person from the eternal pits of fire and brimstone for the gross offense of not being Mormon. I suspect deep down they fear that all their frothy efforts, time and money are for nothing and it must be quite depressing.

    So for now and until my sweet BABB dies, we will continue to Enjoy to the end. Loving life, loving our great and interesting friends, loving our freedom and the opportunity to serve in truely impactful ways, and loving the intellectual freedom to learn new things, discover new ideas, and embrace new ways of doing things.

    Happy Birthday Mark and may you and Donna enjoy to the end as well. If BABB and I ever get the chance to come to SF we'll make sure to come to one of your wonderful parties. I count such intelligent and fun people as some of the blessings of leaving Mormonism. You sure ain't boring!!

  16. InsanaD, I love how you can polish off these amazingly eloquent comments that leave me heaving with laughter. Yes those people getting their temple work done are really really dead!

    If Mark or I drop dead tomorrow, our TBM friends will probably smugly blame it on our apostasy. What they don't get is that, unlike them, we got to LIVE while we were alive. Oy! Well, I'm glad we get it anyway.

    I've got an idea for another guest post on your hilarious blog, but am having trouble with keeping my butt in my chair and writing. (Also, Mark's birthday is one of the few times of the year that I revert to being a Molly Mormon and bustle around the kitchen for hours.) But I'll e-mail you. I'm thinking it would be fun to pair with those hysterical photo shop posters you're posting.--Do you want me to write an "in your face" piece? I can be in your face. lol

  17. Mark, I hope your birthday was wonderful!

  18. Well Donna, I think your softer approach is much more friendly and conducive to your own personality. I have already burned bridges so going the next step isn't a big deal. Some things get under my skin more than others though and since my three kids are still LDS I have to deal with Mormonism on a near daily basis. I'd leave it alone but it's right there all the time, inserting ittself into so many things, politics, relationships, etc..

    I'd love to work with you on another piece. I got more hits with the simple graphics than anything I've written. I think people just get innundated with choice and information and just want the quick read entertainment.

    Being a Molly around the house is sometimes lots of fun, especially if it's not mandatory. Since my career took such an untimely dive into the pits of despair I have been a kept woman and have started to enjoy the luxury of being a homemaker. I don't have kids around so I can fill my days with stuff I really enjoy so its not like a chore anymore.

    I hope Mark has a wonderful birthday. You two seem so blissfully happy, even though when you die you'll both go straight to H-e-double hockey sticks and writhe in pain and lonliness for time and all eternity.

  19. Marion, thanks for the birthday wishes. I had an enjoyable day, and Donna's apple pie was the best I've ever had.

  20. Insana D, thanks for the birthday wishes.

  21. I confronted a family member about this once. They are told that living the gospel principles is the only way to be happy in life, and me being a happy successful exmo just flies in the face of that "logic." She wasn't very happy that I pointed it out. I have been amazed at two things: first of all, people in my family keep trying to convince me that I'm REALLY very unhappy and I'm just faking it; secondly, they ignore the fact that I'm happy and persist in calling me names like misinformed, empty-headed, lost, uneducated, lazy, etc. Maybe they're trying to convince themselves? I'm as poor (financially) as I've ever been as an exmo, but I know that money isn't happiness. Truth and honesty are happiness.

  22. Britta, You're right, money isn't happiness. That being said, you would be poorer if you were an active tithe payer, and you'd still be living the lie.

    I remember hearing that whole "people who leave only think they're happy" bit so many times. Even as a believer I didn't buy it. What's this with "only thinking" you're happy? It's like their companion argument about "real fun." (Going to the beach on Sunday may seem like fun, but it isn't REAL fun.) C'mon, happiness and fun do not require church approval.

    I think you're right, they're trying to convince themselves.

  23. When I was unhappily married to my first husband I tried to seek validation from my LDS family and leaders. They all told me that my unhappiness was just in my head, in spite of the fact that my ex was arrested for embezzlement, forgery, and many other crimes. He had been fired from numerous jobs sending our finances into a tailspin. One thing after another but he was an EQ Pres the whole time and was part of a good ol' boys game where they covered for each other. I was the villian for not being happy and told that if I just served without question and smiled pretty it would work out. My own mother suggested that I needed to say, "I LOVE YOU" to my husband more and eventually I'd convince myself that I loved him and was happy.

    I saw that level of denial, that kind of twisted logic and backward approach to so many things in the church that were wrong, corrupt, and outright damaging. It's not the church, it's YOU that isn't serving enough, not giving enough, not saying "I LOVE YOU" enough. If you live the lie, say the lie, promote the lie, and deny that there is any sort of lie anywhere in that relationship it almost seems like you can smile till you're happy.

    The truth is that many many LDS men and women are so tired of the lies, in their church and marriages and find that the toll is effecting their health, their emotional well being, and especially their finances.

    Some, maybe even many people seem to be a good fit for Mormonism but many are not. The LDS church expects every man, woman and child to knock off all their unique edges, all their individuality to fit the tiny tight peg hole of Mormanity. For many of us it is akin to a spiritual death to keep telling those lies.

    I got to a point where I was willing to lose my house, my business, my friends and family, my income, my career, my respect, and even my children just to stop living the lie. I believe many stuck behind the LDS curtain are near desperate to find a way out but told that if they dare make that choice they'll lose it all.

    You might lose some of it temporarily but you'll make new friends, get a new house, new job, new partner, and if all goes well repair the relationship with your children. Sometimes family shut you out for time and all eternity rather than risk the contagion of your happiness. Some will love you from afar but never stand up for you. Some will keep trying to valiantly draw you back in or guilt you into the cycle again but eventually most of them do back off.

    Life gets better. It really does. Don't be afraid to jump. The net will appear.

  24. Geez, Insana D, what shitty Mormon leaders you had, not that it's unusual, I know of many Mormon wives who were told not to worry "their pretty little heads" over money -- that's the husband's stewardship, after all.

    You're right, they want to fit everyone into the same mold. Congratulations for getting out and reclaiming your life.