This is a guest post in response to the excommunication of Kate Kelly, and possible excommunication of several LDS church members.
by Kati Price
“Your husband does not believe in the Gospel. He had no business taking you to the temple in the first place”…The bishop spoke just inches from my face and placed his hands on my shoulders while shaking me like a young child being scorned, trying to get me to see something I wasn’t ready to face. I was two weeks postpartum with our last child and the bishop had decided my husband was not worthy to bless his only baby girl. He was essentially correct about my husband not fully believing, although his actions were completely wrong. No man should ever speak or touch a woman like that. My husband had always struggled with his own belief, but tried hard to make it work for him. I fought like Hell to continue to belong to my religion. I fought like Hell, pleading with my father in heaven to fix our family. Please, make us worthy. I needed a priesthood leader to be worthy. By association, I was unworthy. We were now labeled “part member family”. My husband was no longer worthy to hold callings. No longer worthy to be a part of the ward member club. This all came about because he expressed doubt in Joseph Smith as a prophet. But no one would listen to his questions. He was only punished for asking. He did everything he was supposed to do. He just had questions. Questions no one could answer for him without ending in “have faith”.
I spent the next 5 years in denial. I silenced my husband and forbid him from telling our children he didn’t believe in our religion. I begged him to lie so he could perform ordinations on our children and just try harder. Pray harder. Read more and plead with the Lord to give him a testimony. I was ready to leave my marriage. I was encouraged to leave. I was depressed. I was broken. With other family problems going on at this same time, I lost my own family and felt like my life was in a spiral downward. This was only the beginning of our problems.
I began to realize I also had a son that was struggling with his own belief. Not because he wanted to be like his dad. He had no clue his dad was also struggling. They were his issues, he was discovering on his own. As a new 4 year old sunbeam, he proudly expressed his disdain for the missionary program in primary one Sunday. “That sounds stupid, why would I go 2 years without talking to my mom?” Everyone laughed. I cried. I knew he meant it. I knew he would never go. I knew I would be disappointed in him when he turned 19 and didn’t go like all of his friends. He wouldn’t be fulfilling the list that was required for him to be worthy. When he turned 8, he begged me to give him the option of not getting baptized. I ignored his pleas. I forced him to become a member of the LDS church. I told him he had no choice, even though we pride ourselves on free agency. I figured it would pass. It didn’t. With each new Sunday school teacher came the questions and comments from the teacher. “Your son asks a lot of questions.” “Your son doesn’t understand the Gospel”. “Your son doesn’t believe.” “You need to teach your son more at home about Gospel principles.” I was mortified. I was embarrassed. I was ashamed. I began to silence my son the same way I did my husband. I begged him to “keep his mouth shut” in class. “Do not ask questions. Just go and listen and you will believe!”
He was about two weeks from turning 12. The age a boy receives the priesthood. One late night he came into my room in tears. He expressed his desire to die rather than receive the priesthood. He could no longer be a part of this church. It was killing him and forcing him to believe in things he just couldn’t believe. He expressed his love of evolution and the big bang theory. He passionately expressed his love of science and how the science of the earth did not match up with the teachings of the church. He was studying a lot of Egyptian theology at the time so he told me about how the Book of Abraham had pictures of Egyptian hieroglyphics that were not correct and that bothered him. He used words that were so mature and so well thought out that there was no way I could ignore him this time. I was changing who my son was meant to be. I was forcing him to be something he could never authentically be and he wanted to die because of it. At 12 years old. My son wanted to die. At that very moment I saw my husband in his sweet eyes. I finally had empathy for my husband and his entire life of being forced to believe something he never could make any sense of.
I went in full mama bear mode. I requested the immediate termination of all church contact. No home teachers, no visiting teachers and I also requested to be released from my calling in the Young Women. A calling I truly loved. I kept everything private. No meetings. No explanation. I feared disciplinary actions. I fiercely needed to protect my son until he was ready to tell his own story. Until, he truly understood his own story. I no longer cared about our family being worthy. I no longer wanted to be a part of the club. The club was tearing apart my family. The desire for worthiness was forcing us to have disappointment and anger with each other. It was causing contention in our home and breaking us apart. I had to heal our family. I had to leave all expectations of who I wanted them to be and let them be who they were MEANT to be.
3 years later we are still trying to make sense of all of our differing beliefs. We are a home with atheist views and agnostic views. Some of us are still very spiritual and cling to the belief of God. Some of us are still too young to know. But, we all respect and love each other. We allow each other to be who we know we were meant to be. No judgment, but most importantly no disappointment. None of us practice Mormonism in the organized sense. We spend our Sundays hiking or going to the movie. We use our extra time to be together as a family. We still teach our children the same morals and guidelines we did when we were Mormon, but now we explain why instead of using the fear of sin or God to teach our children right from wrong. Worthiness is no longer based on a list of things you have to accomplish. Or a list of ordinations that have to be completed.
Leaving was the only option for our family because as a “part member” family we were never completely accepted. There were always things wrong with our family unit. We were always missing a primary ingredient to make us worthy. I truly wish we could have stayed a part of the church I loved so much. To be able to be welcomed and loved as we were. For the people we were individually. For the people we were together. In our experience and our area, that just didn’t happen. Yes, there were those that loved us “anyway”. But, I was tired of being loved “anyway”. I was tired of being pitied or talked about as “the part member family”. We are a whole family. A wonderful family with nothing wrong with us. We deserved to be seen that way.
Living in Utah County is certainly not easy being the odd ones out. Especially still living in the ward we “left”. There have been rumors and awful things said. There are people who will not speak to us. There are people that wish we would leave for good. There have been ruined relationships with friends and family that don’t understand what we believe and the choices we have made. At the end of the day, our little family is all that matters. My children are thriving beyond all my expectations. I am so proud of my son that stood up for his own beliefs my heart could burst at any moment. He is about to enter high school and let me tell you, his future is bright. He is living life to the fullest and is happy and complete. I love being a mother to children that are open and honest. They talk to me about everything. They are not afraid to believe what they choose and be who they want to be. It makes motherhood so glorious and rewarding. I know that when my son turns 18, I will be proud of him and not disappointed. My expectations are no longer tied to worthiness for him.
When members say “They should just leave”…don’t worry. Eventually they will. You leave them no other choice. Just remember, we are real people. With real feelings and reasons for making the choices we make. It’s so easy to judge. Just remember one day it might be your child. Your own spouse, maybe even you might have doubts one day. When that happens, our family is here. With open arms and hearts. We know your pain. We’ve been through it and came out better for it. Truly love your neighbor. You never know the burdens they carry or the choices they are forced to make. Never force someone out. What a beautiful religion this could be if we were more welcoming to all. More accepting of those we don’t understand. Loved without the hope of one day changing them to believe the way you do. There only being ONE right way. That is a religion I could be a part of. I hope one day my religion and heritage will get there. I believe it can. When it does, I will embrace it fully.