Toxic Mormonism

There are times when Mormonism is harmless, amusing, and it certainly does help some people. But there are other times when the environment is toxic and poisonous and so narrow that one cannot even squeak through without becoming flattened, one-dimensional, and without depth or passion.

I always hear the argument, “It’s the people, not the teachings” that create these situations. But it is the TEACHINGS that have created the PEOPLE, and the environment, and the arguments and rhetoric they spew, so how can it not all go back to the main source?

My children have long been friends with Mormon kids, because, well, we live in Utah, and just about everybody here has been touched in some shape or form by Mormonism. The majority ARE Mormon, and a good deal of them are very active and BELIEVING Mormons. And I have often blogged about it, sometimes with humor, often with sadness, and sometimes with anger. What, anger you say? Yep, I’m a mother, and my instincts are maternal and fierce and I don’t like people messing with my kids.

For me, I have reached a point where I find it all quite amusing and rarely negative. It took me a lot of time and a lot of experience to get here to this solid, comfortable place where I rarely engage in negative feelings about my birth religion. My parents, as you all know, are breathe-eat-sleep-walk-Mormons and guess what? They believe it and they LIVE it.

And you have to respect that, even if from afar, with a slightly glazed look on your face as you contemplate just exactly what that belief system is

I’ve learned to accept it, slight glaze and all.

But there are times when it is not innocuous and innocent. Those times are times when my daughter is destroyed because her best friend admits to her that her parents think Chatter Child is a “bad influence.” Because she is not Mormon. Their child has done many things with boys that MY child has not even thought about. Their child sneaks out of the house regularly, something my child has never felt the need to do. Their child is impulsive and headstrong, and at least once a week MY child is stopping her from stupid impulsive behavior. If anyone is a bad influence, it is THEIR CHILD.

But MY CHILD is not Mormon. And thus, they have written her off.

How sad for them. For if they took a moment to get to know MY CHILD, they would discover that:

1. She is passionate, loving, and ardent, particularly when it comes to defending people. If I were in a dark alley surrounded by thugs, I would want MY CHILD in my corner. Not that I would want her in any dark alley, or near any thugs. What the heck would she be doing there? What the heck would I be doing there? But you get the picture.

2. She is random and rejoices in it. She likes Elmo, Disney movies and paraphernalia and animated cartoons. Sometimes she is so mature it scares me, and then she curls up in her Mater blanket and I see the child that is still there, the one I gave birth to 15 years ago.

3. She is anti-drug and anti-drinking, and has become the voice of reason for so many of her young Mormon friends who are rebelling against a strict culture.

4. She is old enough to look at me with disgust because I am just SO dorky, and the next second she is calling me Mommy and asking me to make her tomato soup and a grilled cheese sandwich. Comfort food.

5. When you have a conversation with her, it actually makes sense, and she only uses “like” a few times.

6. She knows all the words to the opening song from Beauty and the Beast.

7. She tells her 13-year-old sister that Miley Cyrus/Hannah Montana is SO over, and then secretly watches all the episodes when she won’t get caught.

8. She’s gullible. If that stupid boy tells her he has cancer ONE MORE TIME, I’m going to have to go over and straighten him out. (No, he does not have cancer.)

9. She likes the scars on her legs. She figures she has earned them.

10. She has chosen to embrace her naturally curly hair, and only straightens it every once in a while. She also managed to convince her cousin who has even CURLIER hair that naturally curly hair is cool.

These are just a few of the things that her best friend’s parents will not know, because they have pegged her as bad. Because she isn’t Mormon. And this, friends, is when the Mormon environment becomes toxic. It’s been an eye-opener for my parents, because they do not believe this side of Mormonism exists, but they are seeing it now. They know it’s real. And they want to change it.

And who knows, maybe that is all it will take. Baby steps.

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About Natalie R. Collins

Natalie has more than 30 years writing, editing, proofreading and design experience. She has written 20 books (and counting), has worked for the Sundance Film Festival, and as an investigative journalist, editor, and proofreader. She embraces her gypsy-heart and is following her new free-thinking journey through life. Follow her as she starts over and learns a bunch of life's lessons--some the hard way.
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19 Responses to Toxic Mormonism

  1. bob says:

    Yes it is amazing how grandparents can change when family is involved, In the south I have known several die in the wool racists. Their daughters have married outside their race . All of themI know have learned to love the grandkids and it has made a profound difference in the way they think. I had one grandparent tell his work group about this change and he was very emotional as he told the story. He was ashamed that he went all his life thinking one way and found he was so wrong. Yes being smacked in the face with reality can help all of us now and then.

    bob

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  2. azteclady says:

    Chatter Child sounds like an amazing, amazing person. Kudos to you, Natalie, for sharing her with us.

    I am sorry that she has had–and probably will have–to suffer the religious discrimination so prevalent in ultra-religious societies. Here’s hoping her inner strength carries her through with minimal scarring.

    Like

  3. moe says:

    I stumbled upon your blog by accident, but I wanted to say that I think your daughter sounds like a wonderful person, and I’m sorry that she’s had a bad experience with a Mormon friend. As a Mormon myself, it pains me to hear about this side of Mormonism, but I know that there are many people out there who behave in this manner, especially in Utah. It seems that because Mormonism is so prevalent here there are members of the LDS church who have forgotten how to associate with people outside of their religion, or else feel for some reason that “non-memebers” are “bad”, and that is just sad. I don’t really know where I’m going with this comment. I guess I just wanted to say that there really are a great deal of good, friendly, non-judgemental Mormons in Utah, and that many of us are aware of this type of behavior, and do not condone it in the least.

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  4. K*tty says:

    Having raised two daughters in the church, while not achieving the highest degree in the Mormon initiation, (temple marriage), I feel your pain. As a mere pledge, my girls suffered. One time in Mutual, a girl sitting behind one of my daughters, untied the back of her dress and tied it to the chair. Your Chatter Child story could be their story. My girls were popular at school, but not at church. They both grew up to be super successful, kind loving women, of whom I couldn’t be prouder. And they were able to do it without the church. But it was still hard to watch what they went through, while they grew up. I am not faulting the church, but it is sad that it can’t be more of a haven, as life is tough enough.

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  5. Elaine says:

    I’m sorry Chatter Child is having to go through this.

    I’ve been on both sides of the equation. Before I was ever in the church, a couple of mothers of girls I knew tried to get me to spend more time with their daughters because I was a “good influence” on them.

    Then, after I joined the church, there were a couple of people I knew whose parents didn’t want me associating with their daughters (and this was after high school, mind you) because I was a bad influence, presumably because I wasn’t mortified that I wasn’t married or engaged and that I wasn’t especially worried about that.

    All in all, other than the shunning thing, it was a lot more fun being a “bad influence” than it was being a good influence…primarily, I guess, because I wasn’t doing anything “bad” at all (and, in fact, like Chatter Child, I was considerably better-behaved than those who I was supposed to be influencing in a negative direction), and I was old enough by then to see the ironies there. Chatter Child could be too young to appreciate that part of the experience now, but I’m betting she will come to a similar understanding of the experience as well.

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  6. Elaine says:

    I have to add, after reading that through, that the daughters of those parents who didn’t think I was a good influence were, in at least one case, actually older than I was. I don’t know what kind of influence they thought I had over there daughters; as far as I knew then or know now, I didn’t have any influence on them at all.

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  7. Cele says:

    While it’s sad today, what is happening will make Chatter Child a more understanding person in the future. While she’s the voice of reason today, she’ll be a well rounded woman tomorrow because of her experiences. I wish her peace.

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  8. Renee says:

    Natalie, I recently blogged about this type of experience with my 9 year old son and his Scout troop. It hurt me so much (thankfully most of it went over his head). I agree with Cele, but my instinct is to get my kid the heck out of Dodge so that he is judged on his own merits, not his religion. We’ll see how it goes.

    Thank you for sharing. It makes me feel much less alone. And I’m sure Chatter Child is awesome. She is definitely lucky to have you as a mom.

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  9. Tracy says:

    Spam is interesting. The one above me is really confused.

    “Toxic Mormonism Who Would Be A Worse Mom? Paris or Lindsey?”

    Now that’s confused. LOL!!!

    Like

  10. Kris says:

    I hate to always be the one with another point of view but here goes. The same thing happened to me in 5th grade. It had nothing to do with religion then, just a “superior family” to mine, blacklisting the kid that made her kid feel …I don’t know what. That year everyone in the class got invited to her birthday party except me (oh the horror! Hehe). But seriously, this phenomena is NOT in any way restricted to religious preferences. When I joined the church at 17 there were a number of families who liked me quite fine before who absolutely refused to allow me in their house after. My son has also seen his share of whatever you want to call it because we are in a Mormon minority town here. The worst was last year.

    My point? Yep it happens in the church, out of the church, at playgroups, moms groups…pretty much everywhere and it sucks rocks for everyone involved.

    K.

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  11. kd says:

    I just wanted to comment on the statement: “‘It’s the people, not the teachings’ that create these situations.”

    My experience is Mormonism is full of authentically good people who are trying to make an authentically good religion.

    The religion was founded by rogues who sought power. They created a set of teachings where they would be able to self-righteously use the authentic goodwill of their followers as a base for the power grabs and sex escapades.

    Looking at the history, I find the Mormon people are the one’s who’ve created all of the good things associated with the religion. The Machiavellian teachings are the things that created an environment where the rogues in charge systematically undermine the good works of the people.

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  12. Natalie, I’m sure you scare the hell out of your neighbors with all the anti-mormon poison you post here.

    I do love your logic, though…

    my friend’s parents, who are mormon, think I’m a bad influence, because I’m not mormon
    my friend, who is mormon, is the really bad influence
    mormonism is toxic and poisonous and narrow

    Humans find all sorts of reasons to put walls up between themselves and others; be it race, religion, economic status, gender preference, height, weight, etc.

    I’m glad you’re highlighting these inconsistencies between rhetoric (love your neighbor!) and behavior (stay away from my child!). Have you ever thought about teaching sunday school? :o)

    Love,
    Todd

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  13. Natalie says:

    Ah, come on, Todd. It’s not anti-Mormon poison. It’s just LOGIC, period. And I never said A plus B equals C. I’m merely relating an experience. It could happen ANYWHERE, in any religion.

    I just happen to live here, which of course you know. Amusingly enough, I could tell you a few more of our classmates who are very much EX-Mormons, and I know it would surprise you.

    How about you look at these posts differently. Take off your Mormon smugness and superiority and CONSIDER what it must be like to for those who are not. If you do, you might see that this is not “anti-Mormon poison,” but simply another viewpoint.

    Of course, if you’re just TOO narrow, then it isn’t possible for you to consider there might possibly be another side…..

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  14. Natalie… I’m hurt. If I was TOO narrow, I wouldn’t spend ANY time reading your anti-mormon poison CONSIDERING what it must be like from your illogical viewpoint. Besides, didn’t Jesus say that the way which leadeth unto life is narrow? 🙂

    I’m glad that we agree that the experience with your daughter’s friend could happen anywhere. That was really the point I was trying to make, and that the conclusions you drew from that experience regarding mormonism were illogical.

    Regarding my coming across with a smug and superior tone. Sorry about that. I’ll admit that I’m not the best writer, and I’ve got to work on getting the right tone across. Now YOU on the other hand write superbly. I really enjoy your style. You go girl!

    Best Regards,
    Todd

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  15. Isabella says:

    Natalie,

    My husband and I are former mormons and often enjoy reading your blog.I admire you and your daughter for choosing to be levelheaded and balanced with a sprinkle of humour, in the way you choose to view your experiences in Utah and Life. It is incredibly sad to see and experience the amount of fear that cloaks many within the Mormon Church. A fear so thick that one can cut it with a knife and it acts as a barrier between them (mormons) and those that they view as outsiders (toxic to them). As you well know, mormons believe that the ADVERSARY can/will work to lead them astray and the ADVERSARY especially likes to work through “OUTSIDERS” like all of us. Of course this includes the “HOMOSEXUAL’ community.

    Yet another example of the TOXIC BRAINWASHING: In Mormon Chapels throughout California, church leaders read a letter from the First Presidency of the LDS Church (29th June 2008).The letter advocates that Mormons in California need to vote against the legalization of GAY MARRIAGE….and of course for the PROTECTION OF THE SANCTITY OF MARRIAGE BETWEEN A MAN AND A WOMAN.

    Please read the letter as posted on a friends webblog.
    http://www.dancingwithcrazy.blogspot.com This blog is by Emily Pearson (who is also an ex-mormon).

    The way that the Mormon Church has become openly Political is sickening to me!!!!!!
    The Mormon church used to tell their members to vote their conscience…….
    NOT ANYMORE!!!!!!!

    I take my hat off to all of the former mormons and non-mormons that choose to live in Utah. I’m glad it’s not me.The energy there can be stiffling. I lived their for several years and now live in the Seattle area. The energy here is so open in comparison that I feel like I can breathe deeply without effort. I invite you, Natalie, and anyone else who reads this entry to come up and breathe for a holiday……anytime!!!

    Like

  16. undecided says:

    Hey. Don’t know if you will see this comment since your post was from so long ago. Anyhow, my family and I moved to Utah 10+ years ago. What a rude awakening! We have lived in many different places and have never encountered the discrimination like we have here. We are not mormon. My kids had a terrible time in school. Especially my daughter. She is a friendly, social loving girl. She was treated so badly until I put her in private school. Compared to what you stated your daughter had gone through, I’m sure you can relate. She has grown up to be a wonderful person. Her morals and values would teach these mormons a thing or two for certain. I chose to stay in Utah to allow my kids to finish school here. Can’t really leave due to being vested (retirement issues and all). However, I can’t wait to move back to civilization/reality one day. The few things that still haunt me are that I feel mormons are raised to do as they are told and don’t ask questions. Well, I like to ask questions. I like to be aware and educated. I get closed down so many times by co-workers (for example); I almost feel as if I have been shunned. The other thing that I have a hard time with is, good Lord, EVERYONE knows everyone else! No matter where you go! I guess it just ‘creeps’ me out in a way. Can anyone relate to this? I am having an extremely difficult time with these issues.

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  17. Sean McLaughlin says:

    What’s really hard for me to understand is if where you are doesn’t agree with you SO MUCH, then heck it’s a free country…right? Get OUT OF THERE! Or is this some kind of co dependent type relationship with mormons?

    Like

  18. Mike says:

    Sean is right in one sense, and amazingly naïve in others. It should be common knowledge that many, many diverse factors determine the geographic location for residency. Employment, family, relationships, climate, outdoor activities etc. etc. etc..

    When one says simple, “If you don’t like it, or it bothers you enough – leave!” – One must wonder about the maturity level of the speaker. Certainly, if the burden gets too great, and the scales are tipped toward the “I can’t stand this shit any more!” – then a move is probably a good idea. Until then, everyone has the right to raise their voices for change in areas that they deem unacceptable. IMO, religious stupidity and arrogance are changeable factions. So – I for one will continue to live in Utah, where the most disagreeable facet of my life is dealing with the moral, religious bigotry of Mormonism. And I will continue to speak out.

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  19. Rick says:

    So true Mike. I absolutely love Utah…the mountains are unmatched anywhere, and I live 15 minutes from the best skiing in the world. I love the temperate climate and the four seasons here.

    I don’t think any objective person can honestly say that outside criticism and pressure has not changed church doctrine significantly, so like Mike, I will continue to speak out. It’s a slow process to change a geriatric leadership, but worth it for all impacted by LDS culture — and that’s certainly everybody in this great state!

    ~Rick

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