My dad’s family was Mormon Mormon, like handcart company pioneers who had eight wives in Mexico, Mormon. I have a weird, morbid fascination with the Fundamental Latter-Day Saint Church because when I read stories of people who escaped these compounds the only difference I see between me and them is that my great grandfather left and theirs stayed—they were neighbors.
There’s this parallel life I see for myself where I’m child bride in Mexico, or less removed, I marry my high school boyfriend and I have six kids by now. In reality our lives diverged when he went on a mission, and I went to Brigham Young University. I feel so grateful I was a weirdo no one wanted to date at BYU.
BYU has one of the largest counseling service of any university—I think that says a lot about what’s going on under the surface. I was in individual and group counseling for a couple years, and while in the program I encountered dozens of miserable people who were self harming. After I peeled off the facade of Mormonism and saw what was underneath all these students who were policing each other it was very eye opening. This little switch turned in my head from, ‘I’m wrong, and I should be better’ to ‘This is wrong, and this should be better.’
Counselors wouldn’t report you, but they would encourage you to report yourself. Every semester you had to get an Ecclesiastical Endorsement from your ward Bishop confirming you upheld the Honor Code and could enroll the next semester. There would be a lot of pressure to confess to your Bishop, but there was also a lot of pressure to not confess in fear of being kicked out of school and losing your college degree. Students would inevitably do things that warranted a confession; they would feel guilty for not confessing; or they would confess and face horrible consequences. It was a very intense, pressured situation, and that’s on top of academic pressure.
My depression was so bad that I was failing all my classes and not going to church. When you don’t go to church your Ecclesiastical Endorsement can’t get renewed, and so I eventually transferred schools. I moved back to Las Vegas and had plans of going back to church, but one day I realized, ‘This isn’t real.’ After I let it go it felt like a weight was lifted off me. My parents weren’t active, I’m an only child, and all my extended Mormon family are gone, so there was no pressure to go back. Without that pressure my depression started to lift and I finished college. Eventually I got my Master’s and went on for a PhD.
I remained inactive until a couple years ago when the church was publicly anti-LGBTQ and Kate Kelly was excommunicated for ‘Ordain Women’. It all just seemed horrible, so I formally removed myself from the list. I don’t want to be counted in their membership as someone who condones this.