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Isn’t It A Nobby One And Just The Proper Style

This week I stumbled across a YouTube video by dress historian Abby Cox which explains the origins of the iconic pointed black witch’s hat.


VIDEO: A Dress Historian Explains the History of the Witch Hat

To summarize in 1 minute what she presents in 36 minutes (start watching at 2:56), the pointy black hat = witch imagery is firmly based on the widespread misogynistic prejudices of earlier centuries which were held against female members of the Religious Society of Friends, otherwise known as the Quakers.

Apparently, it is not good to be

a.) female

b.) a female who considers herself equal to men

c.) an outspoken female who does not know her “place”, aka in the home and with the housekeeping

d.) a female who dares to break gender norms by presuming to preach the Gospel without the authority of possessing a penis

Speaking of penes, don’t even get me started on the origins of why it was believed that witches rode on brooms. The degree of sexism and the fear of women’s empowerment to which one must go to make this conclusion is beyond disgusting.

It’s October 2020, for heck’s sake, and it just so happens that for part of this year I have been exploring the national fight to pass the Equal Rights Amendment in the United States. Having been born in the early 1970’s, this an issue whose details I only vaguely remember from my early childhood. Except for one thing: my mother, in her capacity as a female leader in the LDS Relief Society, was assigned to actively fight the ERA, and so she did. Hard. Oh the sin, the crime, the audacity of a woman speaking truth in her own power! Oh how far we have NOT come in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints!

I heard about the Equal Rights Amendment in an Amazon Prime documentary about Ted Bundy, which mentioned his connection to the Mormon church. I heard about the ERA on a YouTube video about the original lyrics to The Mary Tyler Moore show which changed after the first season. I heard about the Equal Rights Amendment on other YouTube videos directly connecting to or correlating to the Mormon Church and the fight against women’s equality. In fact, I ran across so much misogynistic material that I had to create an entire playlist to organize and keep track of it all. I heard about the ERA in a Netflix documentary about Helen Reddy. I’ve read The Handmaid’s Tale but have yet to watch the Hulu series based on the book. Nor have I seen Hulu’s Mrs. America about Phyllis Schlafly, but I plan to. Unbelievably, I started to learn good things about U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg for the first time only upon her passing.

The reason I’m having to do all this is because I’ve literally lived under a rock my entire life: the theological rock of my Mormon faith, my ultra-orthodox Bruce R. McConkie-Ezra T. Benson- Rush Limbaugh upbringing and what it taught me to believe about all things female, feminine and feminist.


VIDEO: Heavenly Mother, Are You Really There?

They Cry From My Bones

I am a direct blood descendant of not one, not two, but THREE women slain in the hysteria of the Salem Witch Trials. In addition, I am a direct blood descendant of Hawaiian chiefesses and chiefs who were practically all-powerful within their society. (I was only informed in my late thirties that these Polynesian ancestors also included herbalists and midwives.) And yet, and yet, what was the one thing that I resented most during my childhood at this time of year? It was being pressured by my mother seemingly every single year to be either a witch or a gypsy for Halloween.

A gypsy is really nothing more than an itinerant herbalist folk witch with sometimes side-industries of dancing and whoring for men. So either way, whether the costume I donned was completely black and pointy or whether I wore a head-kerchief, false-hoop earrings and colorful skirt, my Mom still wanted me to be a witch. Always. All the time.

Deep down… w-a-a-a-y deep down… though I didn’t admit it out loud, a fearfully evil, snarky little thought-crime festered and bubbled every time Mother pushed and pestered at me to be a witch: No, Mom, NO! I don’t want to be a witch like you!


VIDEO: Mrs Gulch tranforms into The Wicked Witch of the West

I mean, seriously: who needed the ERA and more female empowerment when my life was already in the throes of the jealousies, rants, whims and rages of this woman? (I’ve already covered in an earlier blog post what I believe are the psychological roots of my childhood terror of female transformation… the horrifying pattern I found repeated everywhere of changing from outward feigned form to inward true nature… or from someone beloved and nurturing to someone terrifying and terrorizing)

I’ll Get You My Pretty!

What was it with her? With all of us kids to dress for the occasion, as I learned for myself when I became a mother with my own children to clothe at Halloween time, was Mom simply that cheap?! Yes, yes, I believed she was… and that this must truly be the root of her pushing at me to don these two costumes. However, because I also sensed her internalized misogyny, though I had no word to label it at the time, this inner knowing has led to other clothing-related resentments.

Why couldn’t I ever be anything pretty or feminine or beautiful or delicate for Halloween… or ever, for that matter? I got away with being Princess Leah once, as a kindergartener. Help me, Obi Wan Kenobi. You’re my only hope! Using a hand-me-down costume that had already gone through older siblings, I got to be a ballerina another time. But never since that kindergarten autumn do I recall being truly encouraged, let alone enabled by my mother to be anything that made me feel what Anne of Green Gables heroine Anne Shirley termed “divinely beautiful”.

Why was it, exactly, that I was always dressed, 365-days-a-year (unless I begged, pled and fought for it) in ugly, boyish shades of navy blue, black, red, forest green, maroon and brown? Why were pastels so discouraged that they felt forbidden? I didn’t wear my first pastel pink dress until I was a teenager, and this was only because my older sister requested it as the color for her wedding party.

Why did my parents forbid me from dressing like the other kids at school? Specifically, why was I allowed to wear dress pants, dresses, jumpers and skirts, but never jeans? The explanation given while I was growing up, was this sad-sap story I always found hard to believe. He claimed only the poor kids wore jeans, and were disrespected at school compared to the more nicely dressed children. He related the sorry tale of some flannel-lined ones he’d had, yet never seemed to comprehend that times had changed. The affluent kids at my school all wore jeans. Certainly he could see that too? My father had siblings, and I was no dumb child. I observed how my cousins, nearly all of them popular and athletic, were always dressed in a manner to fit in easily. Indeed, I dared to ask my uncles, aunts and grandparents direct questions and as I suspected they would, they refuted and condemned all of my father’s assertions.

At Grandma’s house, eating fresh strawberries from her garden.

In my early adulthood, I confronted my father about this issue once again He then admitted then the dress code had been enacted deliberately for the express purpose of making sure that we girls did not fit in; were always rejected by our peers as weird. It kept us bound to them, our parents, protecting us from developing a peer-oriented mindset like the rest of our generation. Proudly he stated that our mistreatment over our wardrobes had made us strong. Then he looked at me expectantly, almost as if he wanted me to thank him. I wanted to throttle him for all the horrible pain and hurt, the countless events of bullying and cruelty – spanning nearly two decades – that I had so unnecessarily endured. Growing up is hard enough. Why did he and mom think it a good thing to make it even harder?

Why were my shoes always blue, brown, black or white – clunky and plain – admittedly oftentimes hand-me-downs from the three sisters before me, and though these existed, never ever featured licensed characters? Once again it just had to be that these were too expensive, and not that nobody thought it worth a few extra dollars to bring little child a little joy. Right? Little girls just couldn’t let their thoughts wander to the lurking perception that they really weren’t beloved, their joy wasn’t sought, but rather, anything that threatened to bring a bit of happiness to young and tender hearts was deliberately and repeatedly squelched specifically to gladden a jealous mind.

As another example, I had to wear thick, ugly, knee-high tube socks as a child. No delicate eyelet-trimmed anklets or cuffed socks for me. I remember going back-to-school shopping with my Mom and discovering a package where the three stripes came in pastels. Believing my cause could be won it was exactly the same price as the socks with red, blue, black and green stripes, I begged my mom to buy the pretty tube socks. My mother said no, and the reason she gave was that the pink, lilac, yellow and baby-blue striped socks would not match anything in my wardrobe. Yeah. The one she dressed me in herself. She never did have the son that we knew she had longed for. We even knew his name. At times like that, I couldn’t help feeling like making me dress like a boy was her only comfort… and revenge.

Another time, after I had begged and begged for a beautiful, delicate, store-bought, gauzy light-blue dress I had long coveted from the local Big Wheel, somehow it miraculously appeared inside of a birthday package. (My guess is that it was probably an Easter dress and because of the time of year when I was born, my mother mostly likely bought it off the clearance rack). When it ripped on the car door within months of its precious acquisition – and on the way to church no less – I could not miss the merry, malicious glee dancing in my mother’s eyes when she declared it was ruined, could not be fixed, and had to be thrown away once we got home. I never, ever forgot that… and I never asked her for another store-bought dress again.

Dare I relate many other apparel or appearance related experiences from my life, or from the lives of my siblings that I remember? Somehow they all added up to the same uncanny feeling that there was a deliberate and cruel parental humiliation or sabotage. How could they be anything other than this when the painful event was always immediately followed by a flood of gaslighting?

With my obvious genetically-inherited amblyopia (see the pictures of your maternal grandmother, Mom), did you enjoy the public attention you got by completing the color tones of my “masculine look” with the big band-aid patch over my eye? The least you could have done was try as best as you could to comfort me; to go out of your way to assure me that the rest of me was pretty. Instead I went out into the world unprotected from the strange looks, the pirate comments that came countless times from rude strangers who always thought I was a boy.

Was it really that funny when you dressed me as the ugly Fat Lady In The Circus for the heavily-attended public parade that our LDS ward participated in annually? I was only three or four years old, but I was still sentient enough to notice how the people mocked me, (and it was not because they thought I was so cute! I knew the difference!) Like them, you laughed at me too, as I helplessly stood there in obedience to your orders, tears streaming down my face, while the insensitivity of your flashbulbs made the memory indelible.

That time when I was 4 or 5, were you more concerned about your own immense amusement at the situation or about me, your own daughter, and the horrible pain of the huge new black eye I had received when I nobly sacrificed myself by swinging sideways into a pole to spare my little sister from what I knew would be serious injury if she were to collide with me on my soaring swing? Or did you laugh the whole time as you made me pose there for your camera… as my initial feelings of confusion and humiliation finally reduced themselves to shame and self-hatred?

Why did you always insist on keeping my beautiful brown curly hair cut short? Why did I always feel awkward and ugly… like a shaved poodle… like a curly-haired Shawn Cassidy… like I had a humidity-induced afro despite not being black. Why the endless at-home chop-jobs paired with ridiculous attempts at feathering my hair, neither of which were flattering or realistic for my hair type? Why’d you even bother when any extra hair products were a waste of money and any length of time spent in front of the mirror was vanity?

Were you proud of my oboe performance in the middle school band concert? Apparently not that much, for all I heard about on the way straight home (while other parents took their kids out for celebratory ice cream) was how all you could see, from w-a-a-a-a-y up there in the bleachers, was my glaringly conspicuous white underwear. There they were, screaming like a neon sign at you from where I was seated on a folding chair resting on the gym floor. That beautiful Scottish kilt skirt with the real brass pin that I had been so proud of, along with my apparently sprawled-wide-open legs, was deemed the culprit. I was never allowed to wear it again.

Throw in the Mormon purity culture and my mother’s insistence on our strict adherence to rules of modesty and let me tell you, a senior citizen would have certainly been thrilled with my selection of fashions for the teenage years. Along with the steady stream of sisters’ hand-me-downs throw in the fact that they were nearly a decade out of date once they got to me. Red-and-black-diamond pattern bellbottoms at the height of the narrow-legged jean era of the’80’s, anyone? Yay, ugly nerdy “Four-Eyed Mormon” “Katie the Cleaning Lady” me!

Did I please you by being inducted into the National Honor’s Society as a high school Junior, or did it please you more to make a fool of me (and of yourself) by publicly picking on my posture from the crowd of onlooking parents during the official photo session of the inductees? I was focused so much trying to appease you and stop your embarrassing antics from the peanut gallery that I ended up looking something like Mr. Bean in the shot that was published in the yearbook.

Inexplicably, Mother’s idea of my taste in clothing changed when I became an adult. I first noticed the change when I was gifted a black, brick-red and silver-metallic yarn sweater. Later, I got a turquoise dress with large fake gemstones across the bodice. When I swallowed my gag reflex and politely expressed thanks, Mom commented that she knew I “liked these sorts of clothes.” Did you mean gaudy, ostentatious, unfashionable, geriatric or some combination of these terms? Like, WTF, Mom! Were you ever in your life really paying any attention to me at all? I like comfortable earth tones, and comfortable clothes like kurtas and multi-colored paneled skirts; anything with a Nordic, Germanic, Slavic or Bollywood folklore element to it, especially if it has embroidery. I like and prefer natural fibers. Yet you turn around and dress me like glitter-and-Saran-wrapped love child of Barbara Mandrell and Tammy Fae Bakker!! Great job with the Value Village clearance-rack hunt again, Mom. Truly I am set to be the next taste-maker, fashion influencer with you as my personal assistant.

I never knew I was actually attractive, maybe even beautiful, until I became a mother. People would stop me at the grocery store and fawn over my gorgeous baby girl. Invariably they would conclude, “She is so beautiful! Just like her mother!” Alas, this was too little, too late. I spent my twenties, the prime of my life, chained like Princess Leah to the LDS ecclesiastical abuser who had become my husband: the fat, ugly, white-haired Jabba the Hut who was 27 years my senior.

“How’s Your Wife Compared To Whom?”

Let me repeat that. How’s your wife compared to whom? This is a favorite saying of my father’s. He’d use it whenever we’d complain to him about the unhappy state of something in our lives. Yes, specifically, in those many times when we’d complain to him about how our mother treated us when he wasn’t home. It was his way of saying, “Well, you may think you deserve something better, but just reflect, and be damn grateful, that you don’t have somebody worse.” I don’t know about the rest of my siblings, but I always found this stonewalling comeback completely frustrating. It was like he didn’t care about what happened to us at all. He was, apparently, “happy with his choice” and therefore, as the offspring of his choice, we children had no right to murmur and moan about anything.

All we can say is that it’s for the best
And it couldn’t possibly get any bette
r!

– Golde, in the song “Tevye’s Dream”, from Fiddler on the Roof

Within-Wheel Wanderings & Cycle-Strugglings

Since I couldn’t enact change outwardly, being powerless within my family system, I remember vowing as a very small child that when I grew up, I was never going to be like my mother. That’s an ironic thing, that thought, since I know my own mother vowed the very same thing. To be sure, I was very frequently reminded, by both of my parents, that my abuse wasn’t nearly as bad as what my mother had endured as a child. So I guess in their minds, that invalidated any pain I was experiencing.

When I learned that I was pregnant with my first child, I spent every moment until the delivery day studying very hard to acquire the knowledge that I felt I so desperately needed to break the cycle and pattern of maternal abuse. For me, the saving grace, beyond the first 18 months of my life spent with my maternal grandparents, was learning about Attachment Parenting from Dr William Sears and his wife, Martha. It gave me hope that I could and actually would raise my children in a manner differently than I had been treated. Other helps have come along the way, as I have sought for them, over these 23+ years of being a mother and facing the challenges that go with having to customize my behavior according to the needs and sensitivities of each individual child.

Yet, the constant accompanying drumbeat of fear, repeating over and over again across all these years and years has been, “I don’t want to be like my mother. I just can’t be like my mother. Oh my God, I’m just like my mother, aren’t I?”

Have I made mistakes? Yes. With my own children, was I able to not only discontinue but eradicate the damaging parenting behaviors I suffered which can be categorized as physical, emotional, spiritual, mental, verbal, psychological and sexual abuse? I hope so; I believe so. Yes. Do I regret that sometimes I still struggled with certain patterns of behavior that I learned from my mother, such as screaming when frustrated? Yes, but due to feedback from the children who’ve reached adulthood, I’ve nearly overcome that now. Do I consider myself a success as a mother? I don’t know… it’s still too soon to say. What I do know for sure is that the first go-to name that pops into my children’s minds when they think of me isn’t “witch”.

And yet…

I find that I want my hat. I want my power back. Upon this fleshing-out and filling-in process of learning all this knowledge that was previously verboten to me about my own kind – womenkind – whether it was by not being LDS-Church produced/approved or simply being subject matter too mature or adult for me to understand or be interested in as a TBM before, I nevertheless find myself now standing on the cliff of the wind-whipped precipice of the rest of my life… hair snaking and snarling about, Medusa-like… with steel flashing in my eyes and a cold determination sounding in my voice.

Give. Me. Back. My. Hat.

The one which was never yours to take.

It does not make me a not-nice or even wicked witch to demand what is mine… and if “only bad witches are ugly” one must be careful to examine exactly who is doing the labeling… and why.

Epilogue

I guess you could say, in honor of Sizzle, The Witch of Hissing Hill, and her yellow cat, Gold, that… rather than “falling down the rabbit hole” with this discovery of the centuries-long assertion of women’s equality and empowerment in Quakerism… I have, instead, fallen down the golden cat hole.

Now, Gold was yellow and Gold was nice
But she had a bit of mustard in her yellow, for spice

Yes, on this Halloween 2020, this nice witch is currently completely immersed in a personal study of all things Quaker. Along with that, I’m also returning to further investigation of the Christian universalism of Scottish theologian George MacDonald. If you knew what all has been burdening my heart this entire year- as well as throughout too many years before this one; If you knew this burden was completely due to the all-consuming grief, betrayal and fear of my Mormon life experience and Mormon faith crisis, you would be rejoicing too. Finally, if, according to practitioners of Samhain, the veil is indeed thin on this day of all days, I thank you, Grandpa H, for reaching through it to help me find my way forward from here.


Mo Chràdhghal Bochd performed by Scottish fiddler, Lauren MacColl


Art Thou In The Darkness performed by Paulette Meier

Art thou in darkness?
Mind it not, for if thou dost it will feed thee more.
But stand still, and act not, and wait in patience,
till Light arises out of Darkness and leads thee.

James Nayler (1659)

While volunteering to make program notes and video clips to help John Dehlin out with his new YouTube channel, Understanding Mormonism, I had the opportunity to listen through Mormon Stories episodes 994-997 featuring Kathleen Kimball Melonakos once again. So influential were these interviews and the book in my faith journey that I actually did a blog post about them back in July 2019. I must have been much more TBM (True-Believing Mormon) at the time, because 16 months later I found myself much more spiritually repelled by the very sure, very certain, very obvious Calvinist Evangelical viewpoint held by Mrs. Melonakos.

My hatred of Calvinism began when I first consciously encountered it in high school with Nathanial Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter. That dislike became even more personal when later in that same year I encountered blatant anti-Mormon prejudice from a professor at Calvin College after kicking ass in a German-language examination competition. So, now in 2020, having run away screaming once again, horrified afresh after discovering elements of that grim theology extant in Mormonism, imagine how I felt when I ran across the following video featuring Max Carter. I flipped a series of inward cartwheels and felt to rejoice because finally, FINALLY somebody articulated something that I have felt for a very, very, very long time!!


Were Quakers Puritans by Quaker Speak, featuring Max Carter

To quote the video, “Another major difference that Quakers had with the Puritans was that the Puritans were constantly—as George Fox said—preaching up sin. Constantly referring to humans as “loathsome sinners” as Jonathan Edwards once said, “dangling by a slender thread over the very pits of hell,” and nothing they could do would save them because of their sinful nature in both mind and body.

And as George Fox and other Quakers proclaimed, “You keep preaching up sin, you Puritans. You keep emphasizing the sin of Adam.” “In Adam’s fall we sinnèd all,” as the old McGuffey’s Reader used to say. What about the second Adam? What about Christ, the second Adam, who removes our sin, whose life and light and power enables us to overcome sin?

Whereas George Fox once proclaimed, “There is that ocean of darkness and death but above it an infinite ocean of light and love.” And we can come through the darkness into that infinite ocean of light and love.

And so Quakers emphasized that possibility and continually railed against the Puritans for “preaching up sin” rather than that blessing of the second Adam.”

Yes, I do realize that the second Adam to which Max Carter is referring is the Christ. However, what about the post-Fall Adam? What about that second Adam and that second Eve, who Mormons are taught during the temple endowment were “saved by the power of the Redemption and the Resurrection?” Well, if you leave the endowment video running for a few minutes longer, you get Lucifer himself sweeping back into the room; seemingly for express purpose of breaking the fourth wall. Menacingly, he directly threatens me, you, all the Sons of Adam and Daughters of Eve in the room, that if “they do not walk up to every covenant they make at these altars in this temple this day, they will be in my power.” Like, what the hell?!

THE PROPHET LOST IN THE HILLS AT EVENING

by Hilaire Belloc

Strong God which made the topmost stars
To circulate and keep their course,
Remember me; whom all the bars
Of sense and dreadful fate enforce.

Above me in your heights and tall,
Impassable the summits freeze,
Below the haunted waters call
Impassable beyond the trees.

Pool reflecting the Mountain of the Lord


I hunger and I have no bread.
My gourd is empty of the wine.
Surely the footsteps of the dead
Are shuffling softly close to mine!

Death mask of Joseph Smith, Jr.

It darkens. I have lost the ford.
There is a change on all things made.

The rocks have evil faces, Lord,
And I am awfully afraid.

Elder Jeffrey R Holland, who quoted this poem in GC

Remember me: the Voids of Hell
Expand enormous all around.
Strong friend of souls, Emmanuel,
Redeem me from accursed ground.

Daughters of Onitah by James H Fuller

The long descent of wasted days,
To these at last have led me down;
Remember that I filled with praise
The meaningless and doubtful ways
That lead to an eternal town.

True-Believing Mormon Me outside of an LDS branch building I once attended

I challenged and I kept the Faith,
The bleeding path alone I trod;
It darkens.
Stand about my wraith,
And harbour me—almighty God.

I repeat, what about that second Adam, even Jesus Christ? What about that second Adam and that second Eve, who Mormons are taught during the temple endowment were “saved by the power of the Redemption and the Resurrection?”

Which is it? After all this long time following the Covenant Path like some plastic pawn driving my car through The Game of Life, are my sins remitted by baptism, is my soul washed clean from the blood and sins of this generation by the initiatory, and as I learned in the endowment, am I saved by the power of the already-long-completed Resurrection and Redemption… or not? Is Jesus the Savior and Redeemer of Mankind, “even as many as will”… or not? Is the love, compassion and grace of God the most powerful force in the Universe, stronger even than sin and death… or not?! Hey Mormons, methinks you keep “preaching up sin” rather than that blessing of the second Adam.


VIDEO: Katie’s Conundrum – Going to the temple for the first time (Part 1)

So I will leave your shores, forsake your occult caldrons of the seething, screaming sea creatures whom you so heartlessly victimize, even feed yourselves upon, and seek for a better land (Hebrews 11:13-16).


Note: This essay may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. This presentation is making such material available in an effort to advance understanding of religious issues. This essay presentation is a Creative Commons work – available for free in the public domain – of criticism, commentary, research and nonprofit education and thus constitutes a ‘Fair Use’ of any such copyrighted material as provided in the United States Copyright Act of 1976, 17 U.S.C. § 107.

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