Wednesday, January 12, 2011
ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE INFORMED MIND
I have often thought about how incredibly wonderful it would be if Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind was real, meaning the ability to have a procedure to remove from my brain the memories of certain people and events in my life. Of course, the procedure turned out to create many more problems in the movie rather than solving them, proving not to be the great process that it was originally purported to be. But isn't that the way it is with most things in life? The grass is greener syndrome.
But still, at first glance, removing certain memories from my mind seems like a good idea. Ones that have gotten caught in my consciousness and won't "let go." Like my three ex-husbands. Boy, would I like to forget them and what they put me through. But of course, since my marriages to them permeated my life during my daughter's growing-up years, removing memories of them would also alter memories of those years in general, and I don't ever want to forget the wonderment surrounding her and being her mother.
And then, there are my many mind-numbing years as a Mormon. What a can of worms that is.
But in reality, since what a person goes through becomes part of who they are, taking away any type of memories would alter the woman I am today - and I wouldn't want to do that either. I am very proud of the woman who I have become, especially since I consider myself to be a very strong, competent woman who can take care of herself. Without the experiences through which I have gone, though, I often wonder if I would have ever arrived where I am today. Probably not.
One of the events that I have thought about including on my list for "Memory Expulsion" is my "Court of Love" which took place on April 11, 2002 and culminated in my excommunication from the Mormon Church. But then again, even though it was an extremely humiliating experience, it did serve its purpose (and actually, it served several purposes). At the time, I was going through a "crisis of faith," and I stupidly thought that perhaps if I "put myself right with the Lord" that I would also be able to come through that "crisis of faith" with my Mormonism intact. At that time, I continued to hold on to what I had been told about "sinners" and their inability to have the "Holy Ghost" dwell with them. You know... the prevalent Mormon theory that if there's something wrong, then it's YOU, not THEM or MORMONISM. No, I bought the premise that all of the problems lie with ME, and that if I submitted myself to the process, and showed that I was ready to completely repent and do whatever was necessary to "make it right," then I would also be able to sort through what I had begun to discover about the history and certain doctrines of the Mormon Church.
Some backbround. In July 2001, I went on a Mormon Church History Tour with my then-husband. His mother is a travel agent, and at the time, she was an annual organizer of these types of tours, having put together many during the preceding summers. Since I had never been on one of these Church History tours, and didn't know very much about actual Mormon Church History, I decided that prior to going on this trek, I would do some reading and research so I would be more well-versed about certain historical events when we visited the key places. What I began to discover, though, really "shook my faith," and I started to realize that I had been born and raised in a church with a very sordid history. Of course, the more I discovered, the more I was also mad at myself for not doing reading and research about Mormon Church History prior to that time. I had been a Mormon for 50 years at that point, so I began to feel very negligent in the way I had simply accepted everything about Mormonism from birth without actually researching on my own.
During this research period in 2001, not only did I discover the truth behind the many versions of the First Vision, but I also discovered that Joseph Smith wasn't really a religious martyr as I had been told over the years. No, he was actually a criminal - and the reason he had been arrested and placed in Carthage Jail was because he had ordered the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor printing press (and the burning of the building in which it was housed) after William Law and several other disaffected former Mormons had printed a story exposing the truth behind Joseph Smith's practice of polygamy. When I discovered these facts, I began to realize that if I had been lied to about these events, then there was the very strong possibility that there were other very disturbing facts being hidden as well. And boy, was I right.
So for several months before my "Court of Love," I struggled with what I had discovered about actual Mormon Church history. In the same time frame, my then-husband (#3) and I were doing some things that were very questionable from a moral standpoint as far as the Mormon Church is concerned. So while I was going through my "crisis of faith" because of what I had begun to discover about church history, I decided to "confess" certain things to my Bishop with my then-husband in tow. In the process, he "confessed" as well, and naturally, the Bishop told everything we had said to the Stake President. Before long, we were in the Stake President's office - and not long after that, we were told that we would need to have "Courts of Love."
As I stated above, the actual "Court of Love" was an extremely humiliating experience. There I was, in the High Council Room in the Stake Center with 17 men - including the Stake President, his two counselors, 12 High Councilmen, my Bishop and my then-husband. And when I say that I decided to "submit myself to the process," I mean that I told them my entire story, no facts withheld, from my first marriage (at 22 to a TBM RM who turned out to be a porn addict and who later was the cause of my daughter being exposed to porn at a very young age) to my second marriage (to a non-Mormon man who turned out to be verbally, physically and psychologically abusive... and who "converted" to Mormonism after 4 years of marriage when I was on the verge of leaving him) to my third marriage (to another porn addict... only now we're talking internet porn... as well as a sex addict and an alcoholic... and also a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist who worked with teenage boys who were incarcerated for drug and alcohol problems... and with whom I ended up doing things that led to our being summoned there that day for the "Court of Love"). The things I told them that day made their eyes practically pop out of their heads because, believe me, I went in there with a "no holds barred" attitude. I figured that if they wanted me to go through the "Court of Love," then I was going to give them their money's worth in addition to showing that I was, indeed, "submitting myself entirely to the process." But more than anything, I remember the feeling I had during the time when I was in the High Council room with those 17 men. Looking at them watching me, and listening to my rather sordid story, I couldn't help but think that they were actually simply "dirty old men" who were enjoying the details of my story and were somehow "getting off" on hearing what I had to say.
After I finished telling my very sordid story, we took a short break before my then-husband's "Court of Love" was to begin. When everyone returned and was walking back into the High Council Room, I began to walk back in there, too. But then my then-husband turned to me and said that he didn't want me in his "Court of Love." Of course, I was shocked because I had allowed him to attend mine - but when I told him that, he said that was my choice, but that his choice was to not have me in there for his. I have often thought that he had things to tell these "gentlemen" that I didn't even know about - and that has always bothered me. I mean, he knew everything about everything I had gone through, so to be told that I couldn't be there for his Court was very disconcerting to me. To this day, I don't know what he said in that room, but I remain convinced that there was much, much more to his "story" than I know.
Of course, after the "Courts of Love" and the 15 men had met to consider our stories, we were told by the Stake President that we were both to be excommunicated. At first, I was devastated - mainly because I had been Mormon my entire life and knew what typical Mormons think of people who have been ex'd. I went through a very rough period for several months, and even separated from my then-husband for 6 months or so, but then I went back to my "Mormon place" and began to work on getting re-baptized. That mindset lasted for a little over two years during which time the things we had done together continued to plague us to varying degrees, and because of that, the process was delayed over and over again. Finally in 2004-2005, I started to face up to the fact that I had discovered deal-breaking information about the Mormon Church starting back in 2001 - and that's when I began to realize that my excommunication was actually a blessing. So that's when my Mormon-ness began to shut down entirely, and I decided to leave well-enough alone and not seek to be re-baptized. Best decision I ever made.
Looking back at my "Court of Love," I realize that it helped to cement my opinion that the Mormon Church is a male-dominated, male-oriented organization that deals in blatant double standards and tries to control people through guilt. Making people feel like "sinners," and in particular making them think that they need to confess certain things to their Bishop and possibly their Stake President, and that depending on what is confessed, they may end up in a "Court of Love" is simply wrong. In my opinion, this mindset shows a lack of boundaries, and is a total invasion of privacy. I know that the reason I ended up in my "Court of Love" was because of the way in which I had been brainwashed over the years. And it really pissed me off that I had succumb to the programming.
But regardless of that, here I am, 6 years later... and very happy with my decision to disassociate myself from Mormonism. Of course, during the past 6 years, I have done even more research and have discovered even more about my religion since birth. My catharsis has been aided by my writing 3 books - (1) one about my exit from the Mormon Church and my mountain of issues with it, and which is contained on this blog; (2) another one about my life in general, with obvious Mormon themes running through it; and (3) a third one containing poetry I have written over the years, including 6 "story poems" about various events in my life. And it has further been aided by going on discussion boards at both PostMormon.org and the RFM board (at ExMormon.org), as well as attending the ExMormon Conference in SLC in October 2010. Indeed, I am not alone.
And now, I'm blogging... in Outer Blogness where so many other ExMormons share their thoughts and experiences. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind may not be a possibility (and may not even be advisable), but I do know that Eternal Sunshine of the Informed Mind is a very powerful thing. Discovering and uncovering what I have about Mormonism, and then ridding my life of its influence, has given me a new lease on life. And talking about it all has provided me with the closest avenue to obtaining the peace and serenity that is alluded to in that process.
Yes, I'll take Eternal Sunshine of the Informed Mind every day... over blind submission to a religion that takes away actual thinking and all individuality. As Oscar Wilde said, "A man who does not think for himself does not think at all."