Thursday, November 14, 2013

Why People Who Leave The Church "Aren't Happy"

I've been off my blogging lately, taking a necessary break after finishing my second book. But a memory popped into my head today.

A couple of years ago I had the opportunity to attend an LDS Fast and Testimony Meeting. While painful and time consuming, these occasional visits always provide me with some sort of epiphany. This particular meeting was no exception. After several of the usual suspects rose to bear their testimonies, a woman around my age took the stand and with a mopey face tearfully proclaimed, "People who leave the church aren't happy." Then came my epiphany:

I could be her right now. A miserable Mormon woman.

Over the years, LDS leaders have thrown the bulk of their time, talent, and resources into driving home the message that people who leave the Mormon Church are miserable sinners. -- And thereby scaring the faithful into remaining miserable believers.

It's a strategy that's worked pretty well for them. All they have to do is point to the miserable ex-Mormons like me.

As I sit here at my desk, drinking coffee in my street clothes and department store underwear, I am the embodiment of a miserable sinner. 

You see, "sin" has a somewhat broader definition for Mormons than it has for most people--it starts with drinking coffee and wearing department store underwear, and then moves up to more grievous transgressions, such as eating out on Sunday, wearing a tank top, enjoying a healthy sexual relationship, laughing really hard, drinking a coke, playing gin rummy, and having too much fun. Fun is the operative word here. Because if a person is enjoying herself, she is most likely being sinful.

Fun is very scary. It can make you miserable.

Over the past few years, I've been doing something I consider to be great fun--speaking my mind via blogging and writing novels. Researching a novel can lead to all kinds of "sin." For example, when my friend Cheryl and I went to the porn shop. An ex-Mormon and retired first grade teacher, Cheryl, like me, is no stranger to "sin." That said, neither of us ever thought we'd cross the threshold of an adult superstore. After all, in Sunday School our teachers told us that people who left the church ended up as drunken degenerates who wallowed in porn.

Turns out our teachers were right. For the better part of an hour Cheryl and I wallowed in porn. After that we had a few beers.

While I admit I was shocked by some things, and a little grossed out by others, I found a lot of the merchandise to be useful products for people enjoying a healthy sexual relationship. (And we know what to think of that!) All in all, it was a very fun experience, so much fun that I made Cheryl a porn shop co-owner in my new book, False Prophet.

Here's the (obligatory) excerpt from when Lt. Ryan and Sgt. Romano visit her shop:

Romano mercifully broke in. “We’re actually here to ask you if you saw a certain man in this vicinity yesterday. He was a Mormon, so I doubt he was a customer.”
“Don’t be too sure,” said Cheryl. “We have a few.”
Really? I had to ask. “Know a guy named Dennis Newsome?”
Cheryl squinted. “Lawyer?”
“That’s the one,” I replied.
“Newsome,” said Murph. “Nice guy.”
“He was in last week,” Cheryl added. “Bought some of the remote control panties.”
“No kidding?” said Murph. “Thought his girlfriend was into the edible warming oil.”
“The panties were for his wife,” Cheryl replied.
Murph moved his head in a slow nod. “That’s good of him. Keep her happy too.”
Romano shot me a bored look. “Ryan, why don’t you show them the picture?”
“Oh yeah.” I handed Murph the image of Dooley.
“Sure, I’ve seen him. You’re right. He’s not a customer. But he walks by the shop from time to time.”
A girl in a candy store uniform carried a collection of dildos to the counter. Murph passed Cheryl the picture on his way to the register.
“Can you bag them individually?” the girl asked. “They’re gifts.”
“I saw him yesterday.” Cheryl handed the picture back. “Just after nine a.m. I remember because the sales rep who supplies our butt plugs had to run to pay for parking. The meters begin operation at nine every morning.”
“Yes, ma’am.” I pulled out my pad.
“Anyway, just after he left, your man appeared in the window, wide-eyed, mouth open, gawking, but at nothing in particular. I’d seen him go by before, but with barely a glance at us. I was so startled by his appearance that I went out the door to ask if he was okay. He stared back at me in a bizarre way that gave me the creeps. And in my business that’s saying something.”

Suffice to say, I am obviously very miserable. Look at all the fun I'm having.


  1. Donna, listen. Do you hear that sound? It's the sound of dozens of Mormon bishops howling in straight-laced indignation. Isn't it beautiful, even haunting?

  2. I remember Pres Kimball's conference talk when he said the face card bit that you referred to in your link.

    After hearing this repeated in Seminary (I was in 9th grade at the time) I went home and burned my mom and dad's pinochle cards. They were so mad at me. But, you know, sometimes it's hard to be the faithful follower in your family. LOL

    "We hope faithful Latter-day Saints will not use the playing cards which are used for gambling, either with or without the gambling. As for the gambling, in connection with horse racing or games or sports, we firmly discourage such things." (General Conference, 1974).

    1. So you burned the pinochle cards. Don't we all have stories like that--sigh--back when we were so "happy."

  3. My dad's a former mormon. you sound almost as miserable as he's supposed to be.

    1. They say misery loves company, and now when I'm around a bunch of Mormons it seems they are proof of that.

  4. Having watched a story about Jonestown earlier today I feel some uncomfortable parallels. Spooky stuff. Sorry, but it takes the anesthesia a long time to wear off.

    1. No kidding, Jono, but when it does you're in a "happier place."