Blogging in the Buff

Dear Gabriel,

I never know how to present my relationship with the Mormon church. I've practiced Mormonism all my life, but it's been in different places around the world and within the U.S., each place unique. The only place that feels like it's farthest removed from Mormonism is Utah Valley. Here, in the LDS Mecca, I feel stranded, caught in a sea of cultural norms that have been adopted as doctrine, scratching my head and wondering what in the he'll kind of religion have I been practicing, if this is what the Brethren produce from their headquarters in Salt Lake.

Like Day 1 of my Blogging in the Buff, my thoughts are disorganized and scattered, so I'm going to use more or less the same format tonight as I did two days ago.

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There are Mormons and then there are Mormons.

I was 18 when I met my first Jack-Mormon, and that was at Ricks College (now BYU-I) in one of the most heavily concentrated populations of Mormons in the western United States. I suppose I shouldn't have been surprised; not everyone sticks with the religion they we're brought up with, but the difference here is that these Mormons still attended church even though they didn't believe in the LDS doctrine.

This seemed like a monumental waste of time to me. I asked the Jack-M why he still went to church, and his answer sent a chill through me: He said, "Everyone else is going to church."

Behold: the marriage of religion and culture. I was astonished. From then I started paying attention to other members of my congregation. For the first time in my entire life, I asked myself, "Does he believe? Does she believe?" eventually coming to the conclusion that it didn't matter; people attended because that's what you did in these parts. You went to church. It was like brushing your teeth or wearing clean clothes you would be deemed somehow lacking in spiritual hygiene if you didn't at least go through the motions.

Marrying religion and culture produces one he'll of an offspring.

I married a convert to the Mormonism, and at 23, my husband had an unshakable testimony of Joseph Smith. But as soon as we moved to Idaho as a young couple, his faith began to falter. He kept coming home with all sorts of weird stories that he'd heard at work about this bulletproof bodyguard or that obscure polygamist doctrine that within a month, he was ready to throw in the towel. Only leaving wasn't an option, because you just didn't do that there. It was social suicide.

Choose the Right. As in, Cultural Mormonism is Right and you are Wrong. And an apostate for thinking otherwise.

It was then that I realized that the culture of Mormonism tends to produce members who will absorb faith-promoting rumors as though they we're manna from heaven and spew them out to anyone who would listen as though they we're fact. Now that I live in Utah, I can personally testify of the truthfulness of this practice.

Case in point: My sister married an Idaho Mormon (only slightly less obnoxious than a Utah Mormon) who told her that she was personally responsible for keeping his sexual interest long enough to steer him clear of his stash of pornography, and if she didn't then it was her fault if he burned in hell.

What the ? I don't see that kind of excrement anywhere in here. Maybe I'm not reading it right

And then there was my aunt's second husband, who stepped out on her (with his bishop's wife) but was miraculously spared from any sort of discipline from the church hierarchy because he was in the bishopric himself and he had a reputation to maintain, don't you know?

There is a whole host of women's issues that I could go into, but that's another conversation for another time. Let me see if I can illustrate it in a succinct sentence. Women (meaning objects of sexual pleasure for men, set upon this earth to glorify and exalt their male counterparts (no matter the sexual orientation of either party)), are naturally in possession of angelic qualities and intrinsic patience (and therefore expected never to have leave-me-alone-I'm-tired bad moods) and should remember that they are first and FOREMOST:

BABY FACTORIES! That is, if their uteruses work. If not, well then they're shit out of luck. And if you're distracted by the unattractive stretchmarks and loose skin on my stomach, it's only there because I spent 8 years eating myself into oblivion, because Oblivion was a nicer place than the "spot" Cultural Mormonism had "saved" for me.

But by far the most obnoxious, the most irritating, mind-numbing, tear your hair out from painful places bullshit doctrine/culture hybrid is the modesty rhetoric that we keep hearing about. Which leads me to my next point:

Cultural Mormonism is obsessed with sex.

Nowhere else in the country (or around the world) have I seen Mormon children as young as 5 chastised for dressing in a way that reveals their sexuality. The girls are chastised, that is, and then slut-shamed if they don't understand at an early age (one far too young to even contemplate the concept of sexuality) if they are caught wearing something that might "reveal too much."

As you will have concluded if you've read my first two days of naked blogging, there is a whole world of skin beyond a shoulder that can be bared. If you have been paying attention, then you will ALSO have concluded that nakedness can be natural, and *GASP* non-sexual.

The boys are taught to believe that they are sinners if they so much as experience a passing sexual thought, and are rewarded for relentless self-censure. I can't imagine the agony and hopelessness a young man entering puberty must feel when he judges his natural hormonal responses as evil and unclean.

Even tonight, as I write this letter on Day 3, promising that I would stay away from sexual nudity (at least for now I'm thinking it at least bears mentioning, since sexuality is part of nudity, but only a small part), and I can't stay away from it because in Cultural Mormonism, all nudity is sexual. I've heard people argue about an infant onesie being sexual. The madness continues.

God knows what my straight-laced Cultural Mormon friends must think of my week so far. How dare I bare so much skin?! Surely I must understand that hellfire and damnation await me unless I make a b-line for my bishop and tell him every intimate detail of my life and then beg forgiveness, but only after he asks me whether or not I masturbate and how often and do I use a vibrator? Also, do I enjoy it?

Cultural Mormonism is starting to remind me a bit of the Culture of Beauty; both are powerful machines, driven by a deeply-embedded set of beliefs that are so intrinsic, so familiar, so comfortable with their tidy little nesting-place in our brains that they assume they run the place. And they take very great care never to be questioned.

What do I do now? Oh, I know! Get naked!

To fight the religious environment in Utah Valley that threatens to suffocate me with every breath, that condemns not only my body and it's shape, but it forbids me to explore my own sexuality an option that, if I'd chosen to take it earlier, might have healed the wounds of sexual abuse from my childhood sooner than just this year.

And so, in order to divorce culture and Mormonism and ceremoniously sacrifice the fruit of their loins, I have chosen the most revealing photo of myself so far, taken in a completely sexless position. With this picture, I bare my skin, forgive the years of damage Cultural Mormonism has done to me, and vow to live differently from now on.

Moving away from religion and toward spirituality, I honor the divine in me, and I honor the divine in you. Today is the best day of my life.

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Posted in Churches/Faith/Religion Post Date 12/25/2022






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