Bio: Margaret is a faithful LDS convert and graduate student at BYU. She lives in Utah with her two dogs Daglesh and Bagley,
I didn’t think much of Heavenly Mother until I went through the temple. When I went through the temple, I had the naive view that this meant both men and women become gods and goddesses until I realized the emptiness of that promise for women.
Heavenly Father needed my prayers and offerings, but Heavenly Mother didn’t want to hear from me and she wouldn’t speak to me. My heart broke into a million pieces when I discovered that I would eternally make babies in a Mormon cosmology, but I couldn’t talk to any of them.
Mormonism doesn’t make this an abstract possibility, but the way Mormonism is set up as the one true church made this my reality. I lived in a reality where I believed that I was destined for an exaltation of heartbreak because well, I was taught that I needed to get married.
It struck me as odd, my parents divorced when I was young, but both of them reinforced to me that I needed to get married and stay at home. My parents avoided teaching me how to drive, how to manage finances, how to be independent. I remember teaching myself how to drive alone in a church parking lot. My grandparents from an early age spoke of the evils that they saw in my parents’ divorce. They told me that if I got married and he was unfaithful or abusive, but paid for the house and took care of me, it didn’t matter.
When people spoke of loving their spouse, I thought they must be lying because I believed I would never know anything like that. I became religious, first out of a coping mechanism, then out for the genuine comfort I felt, but the only religious ideas that I had known were patriarchal. I began to hate myself, I hated myself because I already had sex, but also because I was raped. I turned more and more to religion to try and find some sense of comfort. And then, I met him.
He was everything I wasn’t. He had a big happy Mormon family that had been in the Church since the pioneers, he served a mission, he was a virgin. I thought that maybe this was my chance, that I would marry into a family that could become my own and the sins of my past and the sins of my family would fade away. He and I began to date and it started slow.
He would start by telling me that I should dress more modestly and more feminine. I agreed even though I thought it was a little weird. When he asked why I didn’t wear my garments, I told him how I felt uncomfortable with covenanting to my future husband. He laughed and told me that I would get used to it.
Things became progressively worse and he became more controlling: what I ate, what I wore, what I said, where I went. Then, one night, he told me he wanted to marry me and we went to look at rings the next morning. It was a dream. We did all of my favorite things: looked at rings, picked flowers, bought books, and ate pad thai. When we got back to his apartment, he lead me into his room, saying that since we were now going to get married, we could do more. As we made out, he began to touch me. I told him to stop, that I didn’t want to do that before marriage. He stared at me and told me that since I already had, that I owed him. I owed him.
Paralyzed, I let him keep going. And there were more nights like that. When I resisted or hesitated, he reminded me that I owed him. Sex, he told me, was for him to dominate me, to make me submissive to him and that I needed more work than other women did. I overheard him joking to his roommates about how the size of my breasts was his reward for going on a mission. He would turn around and tell me that he loved me, but that I needed to be taught religion because I was too emotional about religion. At that point, religion for me was being kind, but he told me that was not religion.
Religion, he said, was living a traditional Mormon life. He told me that I should be grateful for him, that he was still willing to marry me even though I had already given myself away. I convinced myself that I was happy, but things soon went downhill.
His childhood best friend came home from her mission and introduced him to her companion— or rather, reintroduced them, they were from the same hometown. His parents loved her, and she seemed perfect for him— big Mormon family, returned missionary, everything I wasn’t. He asked her to marry him and she said yes, and I was pushed out of the picture before I even knew what happened, really.
I broke. I attempted suicide and was given a LDS counselor. The counselor told me to lean into religion if I felt unworthy. My religious OCD got worse and I became seeing myself as only having worth if I was the best Latter-day Saint I could be. It’s been a couple years now and I’ve received better therapy and began to find myself again.
But it still is hard. I still worry that I gave away my only chance at happiness, that I am unloveable, that I am wrong because I think differently, that I’ll never been right, that because I don’t fit the mold, I’m unwelcome. I’ve stayed up all night worrying that God would be upset with me because I want to be equal with men, that God would be upset with me because I didn’t do anything to make him stay, that my only place in a Mormon cosmology would not be as a Goddess but as a fallen woman, a Jezebel.
I don’t think Mormonism has to be this way. I’ve found Mormonisms that don’t make me unequal, that bring everyone up, that offer me healing, but to get to those Mormonisms, I’ve had to fight through the structural sexism that has restricted me in every which way.
Brenda represents that. She represents a type of Mormonism where she fully accepts herself and others, and she believes that women have power. She was evilly murdered because she rejected the worst of Mormonism and her life was a witness to the best of it. She fought through the patriarchal tendencies of religion, but she was killed for it.
And she shouldn’t have been. Women shouldn’t face violence, women shouldn’t develop trauma, women shouldn’t be destroyed by toxic patriarchal ideas. As the series continues, I am watching. I am watching to know which men I can trust and which ones I cannot, and the depressing reality has set in that far more do not care about my pain and trauma than do. I think we all need to sit with that.
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