Confessions of a Former Gossip

Posted on January 21, 2009. Filed under: Mormon Life | Tags: , , , |

“I will speak ill of no man, and speak all the good I know of everybody.”   –– Benjamin Franklin

So, my name is EmilyCC, and I am a recovering gossip.

Several years ago, I realized that most of my conversations were about other people. I often felt bad at the end of a night of hanging out with friends because I had said things and heard things that I wouldn’t want certain people to know about.

At first, it was fun. It got me immediate friends (I’m still rather discouraged that I made friends so much faster at someone else’s expense rather than doggedly building a relationship built on trust and experience. Phbt…what fun is that?!). Everything that was gossiped about, I rationalized, was either general knowledge or not that bad. But, I didn’t like the way I felt, and I realized the people I most admired were people who somehow made it through entire conversations without saying a bad thing about anyone.

But, the biggest reason that I decided to stop was when I saw what rumors did to hurt my family. (more…)

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Exponent II Classics: The Interview

Posted on August 14, 2008. Filed under: Mormon Life | Tags: , , |

A post devoted to an EXII classic is long overdue.

The Interview
(a short story)
Laura Hamblin
Provo, Utah
Vol 11, no 1 (Fall 1984)

“Do you pray?”

He had no business asking that question. I knew he didn’t, and he knew he didn’t. It wasn’t one of the twelve required questions. I had been through an interview with Bishop Jensen before, point by point. I had honestly answered all of the questions. Bishop Jensen and I had talked a long time about things, and he had never asked me about my prayers. Besides, if I chose to answer, I could say “yes.” After all, I did bow my head once a week, during the Sacrament. And I did say “amen,” even if I didn’t close my eyes. That was a type of prayer. I could say I prayed…But I had just told President Clark that I was honest in all of my dealings. I paused with my head bent and meticulously picked some lint from my skirt. With my eyes still down, I answered.

“No, President, I don’t.” (more…)

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Adultery and Church Discipline, is it Sexist?

Posted on March 24, 2008. Filed under: authority | Tags: , , , , , |

Adultery is a sensitive subject. Unfaithful spouses can cause great pain in marriages and families. No one is immune from the devastation caused by breaking the seventh commandment. However, I’ll be the first to acknowledge that marriage is a two-way street and the cheating spouse is never 100% of the problem.
That said, I’m interested in the difference in perception between unfaithful wives and unfaithful husbands, and how they are disciplined by the church.

As far as I know, my own marriage has been free of adultery. Not so for my parents. When I was 10, my dad was excommunicated from the church and shortly thereafter I found out why (both parents acknowledge it was a mistake to tell me at such a young age). A few years later, he was rebaptized and shortly thereafter ex’d, again. He was eventually re-rebaptized (after I was married, actually) and is in full fellowship, even serving as YM President at one point. My parents’ continuing marital problems aside, from what I can tell, the story of marital infidelity is fairly common, even in the church.

I have another family member who had an affair when she was young and unhappy in her marriage. She described it as” just a physical thing,” because she didn’t feel needed in her marriage and was disfellowshiped for a short time after her divorce. She soon remarried and was recently sealed to her new husband and child.

In my experience, four of the five of the men I know have been excommunicated for adultery, but none of the four women have been. Considering marital vows of fidelity run both ways, I am continually mystified by why church leaders appear to treat women differently than men for the same sin.

Here are a few reasons why this may be:
1. Women are more vulnerable than men, so should be treated more carefully and not punished as harshly.
2. Excommunication is a blessing, not a punishment. It is a way of separating the sinner from God and the church so he or she can truly repent and come back. If this is true, then perhaps women are not worthy of this blessing, or can achieve true repentance without excommunication.
3. Women are not accountable for their actions in the way men are.
4. God holds husbands to a higher standard of fidelity than wives because they preside in marriage.

Regardless of the rationale behind the church discipline, it directly affects the way outsiders judge the situation. My general sense is that most people see unfaithful men as weak-willed, sex-crazed, or unwise stewards. Men are attributed to acting on their mating instincts and need for physical intimacy. On the other hand, when a woman is unfaithful, perhaps she was a victim or taken advantage of by a predatory man. Or maybe she was in an emotionally empty relationship and found support or understanding in a sexual relationship outside of marriage. This makes me wonder how much the reasoning behind the infidelity factors in to church discipline.

As an end note, I believe it would be incredibly hard to be a bishop or stake president trying to help people found in difficult situations created by adultery. I know that these men do the best that they can and each situation is different. I am just interested in the trend I have observed and wonder if others have observed the same thing. I also wonder if others have a sense of why the church discipline appears to be sexist.

Feel free to respond to the post or the following questions:

Do you think men and women are equally responsible for their part in infidelity?
Why do you think they are often disciplined differently within the church?
Do you judge unfaithful wives differently than unfaithful husbands?
Does the emotional or physical nature of the extramarital relationship affect your judgment? Why?
Do you think the difference in church discipline affects the rate at which men and women in the church commit adultery?

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Forgiving My Parents

Posted on September 27, 2006. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

The topic of this post is a very personal story. It’s taken me a long time to come to know this story and to voice it. It feels dangerous and scary to bare my self in this way, but here I am, naked in front of the crowd:

I remember when I told two of my best friends. We were cutting through a neighbor’s backyard and I stopped them. “I have to tell you something . . . my parents are getting divorced.” There, I said it. Out in the open. For some reason, I had a huge smile on my face that I couldn’t wipe off. I was not happy, but my facial expression had taken on a life of its own and I had no control over it. That was that and we didn’t really talk much more about it. I was fifteen.Life went on. I became even more obsessive with my school work than I already had been. I involved my self in several extra-curricular activities and picked up extra hours at my job at the local public library. I was the star student. I made long lists of things to do to make myself feel busy. I grew depressed. I moped around, cried a lot and occasionally completely broke down. I would suddenly burst into tears while hanging out with friends. I felt ashamed of my dark emotions and my inability to be happy like my friends seemed to be. Somehow I did not connect those feelings with my parents’ divorce, and I thought I had no right to have them.

Time marched on. I moved away to college. I chose a major that initiated me into a journey of self-exploration. At the end of my junior year in undergrad I got engaged, and all hell broke loose. The shelf on which my family issues had been neatly tucked away came crashing down. A sequence of events led to my father writing me a long letter basically blaming me for the distance in our relationship and telling me he would put no further effort in. He threatened that if I did not do certain things he would not attend my wedding. In addition to my family pain, priesthood leaders said and did some things that in my perception were abusive, adding to my misery. The wedding day came and went, and life moved on. Now that I was married, I was in a safe place where I could face my past. I spent nights crying in my husbands arms as I grieved the ideal father I wished I’d had. So many times I wanted to scream at him “You left me, I didn’t leave you!” I was tired of being the “grown-up” in the relationship and was angry that he didn’t step up.
As I continued my education in being a therapist, I began to see how depressed I had been in high school. I was angry at my mother for not seeing the problem and for not helping me. I was angry at my father for leaving me, and telling me it was my fault we were distant. I felt angry and hurt about a lot of things.Forgiveness is sweet. I have come to realize that my parents did the very best they knew how. My father wanted to be a good father. He has his own emotional pain to deal with, and did the best he could given what he was dealt in life. My mother had never dealt with her own issues, and had six other children at home. How could she have seen my pain when she couldn’t admit to her own, and was much too preoccupied with her daily caregiving tasks anyway? They did their best. They love me. I really know that. Things aren’t perfect, but I have now grieved the loss of what could have been, and forgiven them for not being perfect parents. Somehow grace has worked its miracle and I’ve been able to let go. It’s freed me of many of the burdens of my past and I look forward to my future with a more open heart. Now I only hope that my parents can forgive me for not being the well-behaved Mormon girl that they had hoped to raise.

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In His Father’s Image

Posted on June 20, 2006. Filed under: Classics | Tags: , |

I thought this piece, the 1993 EXII Helen Candland Stark Personal Essay Contest winner, was appropriate after Father’s Day (which, like Mother’s Day can bring up a myriad of conflicting feelings). We often think about the different mothers in our lives. I hadn’t really thought about the different fathers in my life and my son’s (pictured here with his great-grandpa) until I read this. You can click here for the complete piece.

My son is sad because he knows that goodbye hurts. He was shattered by his parents’ divorce. When his father left, my son lost part of himself. I remember holding this sobbing child tightly in my arms every night, waiting for the uncontrollable crying to exhaust itself. I felt his profound hurt and grieved along with him. The precious family unit had been broken, and things would never be right again.

Now that I am a single parent, I realize that Heavenly Father has entrusted two very special children to my care: a tender, sensitive boy with a rich inner life, and a highly gifted and creative girl. I must protect and sustain them, binding their wounded spirits so that the healing process can begin. I must teach them to know and love their Heavenly Father, and I must nurture their special talents. The three of us will heal together and gather the blessings of a loving family life.

As I gaze at my son, I realize that—with his dark eyes and hair, jutting chin, and handsome features—he looks a great deal like his father. With apprehension, I realize that he is made in his father’s image. Some of the things he says remind me of his father, and I often wonder if he may have inherited negative personality traits from him as well. At the time the portrait was taken, his speech was unintelligible: loud, fast, gravelly, and with few consonants. His father had always spoken too loudly, and it seemed that my son was imitating him. His little shoulders would become tense, fists clench, and he would shout, then shout even louder when nobody could understand what he was saying. Yet, I knew that he is also made in his Heavenly Father’s image. With this seed of the divine, he has the potential to be a spiritually wise and loving person. I knew that I needed to counteract the negative influences from his early childhood, whether they be genetic or environmental, to help him find his spiritual father within himself. I worked with him carefully along with a speech therapist and enrolled him in a Christian nursery school. He learned to relax and to speak in a normal voice. He started to make friends, learned all about Jesus, and tried hard to be a good child whom people would like.

Yet, the following year was still difficult. He was angry much of the time and was afflicted by constant headaches. He spent much of his time lying on the floor, too lethargic to play or enjoy activities. Although he was enrolled in nursery school, he was often too sick to go. There was more speech therapy and, eventually, work with a chiropractor. Through it all, my son and I were constant companions. He accompanied me on walks, helped with the laundry, sat on the organ bench while I practiced, licked stamps, mailed letters, and sat through rehearsals. Eventually, his anger lessened, and the constant headaches left. Now, after a glorious summer of swimming, playing, music, and reading, he has become the healthy, hearty, delightful child I always knew he could be.

I have mothered this small child. Who will his fathers be? Scenes from the past three years flash across my inner eye like photographs of the mind. I see my little son at three, walking in the mall holdingin tightly to the hand of his grandfather who walks with a cane. He has just discovered that his grandfather’s slower pace is just right for his own short legs. They stroll behind us: the grandfather, tender and careful; the boy, trusting and happy. I remember my son three years later, playing ball outdoors with a family of my teenage cousins. His face glows with delight as he finds himself in a house full of older boys—boys who play catch with him in the backyard and teach him to dribblew a basketball. In quieter moments, I visualize him standing next to me by the piano, barely able to keep his active body still. He is singing “I am a Child of God” in a beautiful, clear soprano with the sweetness and faith that only a child can have.

He knows many fathers. There is our home teacher—a loving, patient father of three small girls. There is a married couple who share family home evening with us every Monday night. There are the men who dress up as Santa Claus and Santa’s elf for the ward Christmas party. There is our family chiropractor—a handsome, well-muscled man about my age. My son always gives him a big hug after his adjustment. Finally, there are his two uncles, mommy’s “little” brothers. Because he knows what it is like to be a little brother, he can identify with these men, no longer boys, who now have families of their own.

He knows his own father. Although my son visits with him once a month, he imagines that his father won’t recognize him when he is grown. He plans to seek him out and introduce himself. I wonder if he will see his resemblance to his father. By then life will have become his tutor and his own sweet spirit his guid. How much he is like his father will be his own choice. I will probable cry when it is time to say goodbye, but I am sure that he will have an image of himself that is joyful and positive in part because I have nurtured and mothered him. As I wish him a happy trip I will know that—no matter what fathers he chooses to pattern himself after—he will always see himself as a child of mine and a child of God.

Deborah Mayhew
Paramus, New Jersey
Volume 18 No. 1 (1993)

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