Saturday, December 23, 2017

Life Since Mormon Stories



                  It's been two years since my episode of Mormon Stories.  A lot has changed in my life since then, and I've definitely had to grow a thicker skin. I thought you may be interested in what is happening with me since those 4 hours of interview hit the air.
                    The biggest change was with my Father.  If you read any of my most recent posts, you know he developed a rare form of cancer and died in March of 2016.  When I heard he was sick I flew out to Utah to be with him.  I was with him 24/7 until he passed away.  He hadn't spoken to me since the interview, but funnily enough, knowing you are about to die changes people.  He told me I hurt a lot of people with my interview, and perhaps I did.  It was certainly never my intention, nor has hurting people ever been.  He cried, something I had never seen him do, and begged me to come back to the church.  I was stuck.  How do I be true to myself and yet let him die in peace?  I promised him I would figure my life out.  I'm still trying.
                    Not long after he died I separated from my husband.  I'm sure the internet trolls are full of "I knew its" right about now.  Hate to break it to you, but everyone could see that one coming.  He was abusive and together we were not cohesive.  Perhaps it was because I cheated on him, but the marriage had been dead long before that.  Either way it was for the best.
                    With divorce comes the long battle of child custody.  I fought for them until I ran out of money, which didn't take all that long because lawyers cost around $350 an hour in these parts.  And, if I am being honest, I knew that all I had was a few dusty college degrees and little work experience, other than being a stay at home mom for 10 years.  Unfortunately no one seems to think that is worth anything when looking to hire you.  I conceded to my ex, and we share custody 60/40 and I pay him child support. I see my kids as often as I can and, with no guilt, enjoy the time I don't.
                    I got a job as a detention officer for a local sheriff's department, and while I was there I met my current boyfriend.  I've discovered how off kilter my marriage truly was, and how a woman should be treated.   He helps me see things with a fresh perspective, and I love him for it.  The best part is he doesn't really understand all the workings of Mormon culture, so he can't get caught up in it.
                  I never did fully resign.  I don't know what happened to my paperwork, and I stopped caring.  That is what I like the most about having left the church.  I truly left it.  I still know a bit about what is going on within the church, but for the most part, I don't care.  I'm free.  It doesn't matter to me if I have a paper stating my name isn't on record anymore.  What matters to me is that I'm happy, and that is all I ever wanted, simple as that may seem.
                  Because I'm not perfect, I want to say a few words to the harsh critics, those who have never met me, but who felt the need to say hurtful remarks on the internet.  I've never understood why someone would feel the need to go and say hateful things anonymously.  Say it to my face, and let me explain to you the true story behind your misguided perceptions. 
                For the most part, I don't care if people label me as having "mental issues."  It is a stupid label, and one that only harms people.  We ALL have mental issues at some point in time.  If I seemed unstable, I'd ask you to step inside my life for a moment.  I had a lot going on, and I wasn't afraid to show it.  I'm HUMAN.  I struggle.  Life can be hard.  Abraham Lincoln once said, "He has the right to criticize who has the heart to help."  I love that quote!  Those of us who want to criticize better be ready to step out from behind our keyboards and help.  I hate knowing that suicide is on the rise, often because of internet bullies feeling the need to hurt someone senselessly.  Kindness matters.  To me, if you have never struggled with anxiety or depression, your opinion on someone who does holds little value.  What you do with that opinion does. 
               It was pointed out that I'm no one special, just someone related to a Mormon Apostle.  I don't refute that.  I'm pretty average.  But I also want other average people like me to know it is okay to be vulnerable.  You don't need to be a scholar or someone "significant" in the church for your story to matter.  People may put you down, and say your story isn't important, but they are wrong.  It is the average person that holds any society together.  You have more influence than you know. 
                I was told I am not a good "exmo".  I had to laugh because I don't buy into that at all.  I am who I am.  I never wanted to be the face of a movement, just to be left alone.  I don't need to attack the church, but I can talk about things and try to make them better from whatever situation I'm in.  This is what I hope others like me can do.  Don't get caught up in "exmormon" culture.  It is just another stress you don't need.  Just be happy.  Have courage to stand up when things are wrong, and above all, treat others with kindness and respect, no matter who they are.
                My grandpa and I still have the same relationship we always did.  Mostly one that is a complex mixture of love and misunderstanding.  I still think he believes 100% in what he does.  I love him.  I defend him.  He's a great guy, albeit imperfect.  I just want him to be happy.
                I stand by everything I said in my interview.  I know a lot more about the history of the Mormon church, as well as the inner workings, but it doesn't change my statements.  Is the Mormon church true?  I don't know.  Is any religion?  I don't know.  I'm open to all possibilities.  I'm just not going to waste one more minute of my life being unhappy over them.  I wish the same for you.  Take care and let your story be heard, YOU matter! 

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Dear Ex-Husband

All of us, at one time or another, want to write a letter to someone out there who irritates the hell out of us.  Recently, I just got tired of holding all my feelings in, and I penned this letter to my ex.

Dear Ex-Husband,

I ascertain from your last text message that you are angry at me for dropping the kids off an hour early.  I sincerely apologize for ruining that last hour of peace, so that you can finish watching "The Game."  Except, I don't really feel bad.  In fact, there is something satisfying about seeing you get what you fought so damn hard for in court.  You get the kids the majority of the time.  You get a portion of each and every one of my paychecks, and you get to look like a long-suffering abused single father.  It must be so grand.

Remember when you told me you wanted a divorce, merely days after my father died?  Remember how, when I was LITERALLY locked away getting "treatment" for depression after the loss of my father, you unenrolled the children from school in Texas, and took them to live in California without my consent?  I don't suppose you have any idea of the heartbreak and anguish that caused, but it was indescribable.    

Perhaps you recall telling CPS that I was an unfit mother due to depression?  Maybe you forgot to tell them I had JUST LOST MY DAD.  So I was under investigation before I even knew it.  And, in any future job interview for my field of Law Enforcement, this would be an absolute red flag, and could hinder my ability to work.

Speaking of work, boy was it a surprise to go back to work after losing my dad, to be taken out of the classroom by the Principal, and asked to leave.  Turns out you had gone to the school when you took the children, and told them I was unfit.  I guess you didn't think about how this newly single and now jobless woman was going to give you money for child support. 

I turned to my friend to find that you had turned her against me as well.  I never did find out what you told her, but she sent me a text telling me to never contact her again.  I hear you two still hang out occasionally.   I hope you have fun. 

Here's the thing.  I don't feel bad about returning the kids early.  I'm not a babysitter.  You wanted to be the primary caregiver, and guess what?  I ran out of money fighting you.  So you got it!  Remember when I stayed at home for 9 years to raise our kids?  Remember how you would leave, for months at a time, and I had no other choice but to just deal with what came along?  You couldn't have forgotten, could you, that you left me pregnant and with a six month old baby for a year?  You gave me no support then, so you should be grateful for what you get now. 

You know I love our children.  But I'm done sacrificing my life for YOU.  I'll always be available to my kids.  I'm an amazing mother.  Even CPS thinks so, no thanks to you.  But you are right.  I am a terrible wife; at least for you.  You need someone to do everything you want, and to forget about her life dreams and aspirations.  I'll admit I was a great wife for many years.  I chose to be a stay at home wife and mother, because I thought I was supposed to.  Even if I didn't want to.  If I ever choose to marry again, I'll be an even better wife to someone else.  Because that man will encourage me to live my dreams. 

I'm sorry about that extra hour you had to parent.  But you've got an established career, making great money.  I'm 34, just starting my career.  Getting paid much less than my education warrants, all because of my lack of experience.  I don't hear any apologies coming from those lips of yours, so I'm going to go ahead and assume you don't give a damn. 

And so, dear ex-husband, I wish you the best.  I look forward to watching you wish you hadn't tried to ruin my life.  It's okay though.  I might actually need to THANK YOU.  I'm loving life.  I've got a bachelorette pad.  I go on dates with REALLY hot guys, and I don't need a damn thing from you.  So, as much as I loathe saying it, thank you.  Your douche-baggery has been a wonderful thing. 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

My 33rd Year

              About a month before my birthday each year, I start shamelessly plugging my birthday.  I begin telling anyone and everyone who will listen about February 21st, the day the world became a better place.  The day a legend was born. 

                I also begin thinking a lot about the previous year.  Was it a good year?  Did I accomplish anything special?  Did I become a better person?  Did I learn anything valuable?  Hopefully, the answer to these questions is yes.  More often than not, the answer eludes me.  Yes, I always learn valuable lessons; and while I hope that I became a better person, I find myself occupied with all the things I need to change that I didn’t notice before.  That happens with improvements.  You fix something, it looks amazing, and you discover you have a million other things that are falling apart and need repair. 

                My 33rd year was surprising to say the least.  I can honestly say that it started off all wrong.  On my 33rd birthday, my father was in the hospital, and I was pretty sure he would not be getting any better.  I spent that birthday thinking of him.  I had visited him the week before, and was horrified to see that he looked 25 years older than he had the last time I had seen him.  Cancer will do that to you.  So I started my 33rd year with a feeling of dread. 

                On March 22nd, after a few weeks of caring for my father at home, he finally died.  Death did not come easily for him.  He wanted it to.  He even apologized for not being able to die faster.  It did not come easily for him, and it was even harder on the rest of us. 

                Watching him die did something to me.  It broke me.  Damaged me.  I felt that I was no longer even remotely the same person I had been.  I was torn, and I was angry.  Incredibly angry.  I was also sure that I needed to hold that emotion in.  I am, after all, a parent.  And I needed to parent. 

                In April, not even a month after he died, I lost all sense of who I was.  As much as I hate the term, I suppose you could say I had a breakdown.  I shattered into a million pieces, and didn’t even want to try to put them back together again.  Life was too hard, and I didn’t have the energy to deal with it anymore. 

In the beginning months of being 33, not only did I lose myself, I lost my marriage, my best female friend, and custody of my children.  I lost my job, my self-worth, and my religion.  I lost my sense of security, my ability to make good relationship choices, and my desire to love again.  I became absolutely sure that the whole, “better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all” was a gigantic bunch of crap.  Because no love seemed worth the absolute devastation of losing it. 

April passed, horrible and lonely.  I attempted to hold myself together, just enough to survive.  May and June got a little better.  Time does that.  Funny how it never seems like it could be true, and then it is.  Time is the scab covering a fresh wound; and eventually the scar of where the wound used to be. 

Both July and August brought new heartbreak of a different variety.  Luckily, I let time work its magic there too.  September through November I kept myself too busy to do much deep thinking.  And December became something better.  More hopeful.  Beautiful.

It is January now, almost a month before I turn 34.  I am a slightly better, more self-aware version of myself.  I am telling myself that my 34th year will be wonderful.  But even as I’m doing so, I know that life is full of surprises, and many of them are not all that great.  There is no way to get through this life but to pick yourself up and muddle through it.  Maybe even have a little happiness along the way.    34 years is an accomplishment.  I made it through multiple things this year that could have killed me.  That tried to kill me.  But I made it.  I’m still breathing.  And damn if I’m not proud of that 33rd year. 

I hope that this year brings me the ability to love again.  Not to just love, but to love better, truer, and with more unbridled joy.  I hope that this year brings me the ability to be kinder, more empathetic, and to positively affect the lives of others who may need to be lifted up.  I hope that I can appreciate my family and friends more deeply, and take the time to tell them how I feel.  So here’s to my birthday, and the start of another chapter in the legend of Laura.

All my love,



Saturday, April 2, 2016


They say that when you are about to die, your life flashes before your eyes.  I suppose I’ve been lucky enough to never have any experience enabling me to prove or disprove that theory.  I can say however, that something similar, yet profoundly different, happens when you lose a loved one. 

                I wish I could see a scan of my brain; one taken since my dad passed away.  I’m guessing it would have flashes of color, bright and intense, around whatever part or parts of the brain focuses on family, loved ones, memories, and loss.  I’m guessing there would be a bunch of synapses lighting up, signaling that something has happened.  Something out of the ordinary and all together painful.  They flash memories of the loved one; perhaps for comfort, or merely to release pain.  For me, it is both.

                Everything is in overdrive.  Everything I see, everything I hear, reminds me of my dad.  I find myself constantly saying to people; “My dad would have loved that,” or, “My dad used to say this,” or, “My dad once did this.”  I wonder if I am beginning to annoy people, or seem like a woman obsessed.  Would they care, would they understand that I am mourning?  Is it something they too need to experience before they can listen with an understanding ear?

                Each night, I lay in bed, and memories are particularly potent.  Times I had not thought of since they happened, but that were locked away in the secret parts of my brain.  Seemingly insignificant.  The time my dad took us to a carpet store, and we ran around, hiding behind large rolls of carpet.  I remember imagining the owners of the store were in the mafia, and used the store as a front for more sinister plots.  I was sure if I looked hard enough, I would see some feet poking out of one of the many rugs lined up against the wall.  Eventually, I fell asleep, nestled by a sibling; only to be woken by my dad, headed to the next home building store.

                That memory leads me to the next, a string of quick images: my father and us kids playing baseball in the back yard of our newly built home, my father admonishing us to look out the window on our many trips, my father feeding us delicious little treats he brought home from work.  Every memory makes me smile, and makes me hurt.  Why do they have to come so hard and so fast?  Is this how grieving always is?  Will the intensity of the memories eventually fade into a more palatable and less emotional ride? 

                I find myself angry at everything.  Everyone.  I hate this, or that.  I hate that I hate this or that.  I’m angry that I’m angry.  It is an irritating Merry Go Round that I both want to escape and hang tightly to.  I’m afraid that if I let go, I may have to feel something less controllable than the anger I am used to.  Something deeper and more frightening than just wanting to sock someone in the face.  This terrifies me.  Is this normal?  Will I ever get past it?  Do I even want to?

                Throughout my studies I have learned plenty on the cycle of grief.  Although it explained to those reading that the cycle doesn’t always play out in order, or for specific periods of time, it annoys me that I am not able to control my grief; to plan for the next stage, and to know where I am.  How rude of the brain to play tricks on us and make us believe we are moving past grief, only to remember the time that dad took us to help families after a flood in a neighboring town.  How we learned that he was in fact, a charitable person, and that he worked hard until the job was done.

                Losing a parent is a new thing for me, just as it is for everyone who finds themselves a semi-orphan.  I can unequivocally say that I don’t love all new experiences.  I don’t enjoy searching for meaning in something as painful as this.  But it is apparently what I am supposed to be doing.  So eventually, when I stop wanting to hurt people and start wanting to heal, I’ll get started on that.  Not today.  Maybe not even this month.  Some day.

                For now, I’m left with those flashing brain synapses.  I, along with my family, am left with the memories of the dad and husband we loved so much.  As annoying and irritating as he could be sometimes.  We are left wondering if we did the right things for him; if we loved him as much as we could have.  Did we give enough of ourselves so that he had the very best life he could have had in his short 60 years?  We weren’t ready for him to go, but was he?  Was he satisfied with what we were able to offer him?  I hope so. 

                Grief is a flowing, ever changing life form of its own.  It apologizes to no one, and leaves no one behind.  Perhaps this is a lesson to be learned.  No one escapes it.  Everyone suffers.  And, if we allow ourselves, everyone’s wounds scar over.  Not gone, but healed sufficiently enough for us to be compassionate to others suffering, and to remember our past. 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Heavenly Mother, Are You Really There?

Heavenly Mother,

I thought I'd talk to you for a change.  I mean, if you are real, and are the counterpart to Heavenly Father, I'm thinking you do most of the nurturing anyway.  Most likely Dad is up there managing the business side; if gender roles are to be believed.  So you are the one who sends us good feelings and stuff.  Right? 

Mom, I don't even know if you really are there.  And if you are, is it in the way that Mormon Doctrine teaches, or is it in the way I want to believe?  Should I be talking to my Heavenly Mothers instead of just you?  I don't like that idea.  Does that make me bad?  I want to believe it is just you up there kickin it with Dad, creating worlds and children and whatever else you Celestial beings do.  Imagining you up there with a bunch of other women, being subservient to Dad, really turns me off the idea of Celestial life. 

Mom, I'm going through a faith crisis, which is something you already know; that is, if you are even there.  I love so much of the teachings of my religion.  But there are so many things that make me balk.  I know I don't understand even the smallest portion of how the universe works, but you'd think anything that hurts another wouldn't be right.  And thus, my struggle. 

Why is it that no one ever talks about you?  Is it because you are more than one person?  Do church leaders mask the idea of you because they don't want people to know that there are thousands of Heavenly Mothers to our one Father?  Do we really not speak of you out of respect?  It seems more disrespectful to me.  If I were never mentioned, asked for help, or thanked, I'd be pretty miffed.  Are you so much more advanced than I?  I mean, I'm sure you are, but doesn't it make you just a tiny, teensy bit irritated?  Its cool if it doesn't, but if you went through the pain and suffering a mother goes through, I think you are entitled to a little praise now and then.  Or gratitude, if praise is too arrogant sounding. 

Mom, I hope you are there.  Believing in you (as in one person) makes me happy.  Who doesn't like the idea of one big happy family?  Of course, I'd be happy with two dads, or two moms.  But not one Dad to a bunch of moms.   Doesn't seem right to have to share.  Maybe Dad drives you nuts, and you are happy to send him off on his merry way?  I've heard that logic before.  And while it is good for a chuckle, I can't imagine anyone really feeling that way.  Is it so hard to be loyal to only one person?  Sure, I know you know my past.  So you know I'm not perfect.  But I'm not trying to get with thousands of dudes in the name of religion either.  I'm not sure we really need that many more people to populate worlds.  I mean, take your time.  You've got ETERNITY.  No need to rush, or bring other women into it. 

Anywho.....  I've got to get about the business of my own mothering.  Thanks for letting me brush some ideas past you.  You've been a great listener.....  which anyone who may or may not exist usually is, but you know what I mean. 


Thursday, December 10, 2015

Dear Grandpa

The following is the exact letter I just sent to my maternal grandpa, Elder M. Russell Ballard of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles.

Dear Grandpa,

I hope all is well with you and Grandma.  I wanted to say that I am sorry if anything I said was hurtful to you.  I didn't mean for it to be, though I can understand if you are upset. 

Right now I have no testimony of the gospel.  It frightens me to say that I don't even know the place that Jesus Christ plays in my life anymore.  But that doesn't mean that I am no longer a good person.  In fact, I may be a better person out of the church than I ever was in it. 

Thankfully, I've had a group of wonderful people enter into my life since I did the Mormon Stories interview.  Yes, most of them are people who have left the church.  These people have surrounded me with love; while those who professed to be my friends dropped me out of their lives.  It has been such an enriching experience to get to know these people.  They come from various backgrounds, with many different ideas and questions.  I feel like that black and white thinking I have had my entire life has vanished.  And I am so grateful.  It is dangerous, and in the case of those struggling, with homosexuality or other issues, it can be deadly.

Grandpa, I am sad that people who leave the church are treated so badly.  I know there are no people teaching members to be unkind to those who have left the church, but there are people teaching that we have been misled by Satan.  You may agree with this, but I see it as problematic.  We are considered less than with this way of thinking.  If you leave, you are less valiant, less strong, less spiritual.  You are easily led astray by others and value your own knowledge above that of the Lord's.  I can only speak for me, but I can say that I am more humble now than I was before.  I'm more open to the idea that I can be wrong.  I'm also more open to the idea that it is okay to be wrong.  I believe that if there is a God, He would rather have us question, and learn as much as possible, before we come to any conclusions. 

Aren't we taught to seek things out in our mind, before we make a choice?  How can anyone truly say that they have a knowledge, when in my experience, LDS members (including myself) are some of the most ignorant people in the world regarding their own history?  How does this not bother you?  I believe a true test of faith is to know as much as humanly possible, then act accordingly. 

I understand that you may not want to respond.  In my mind I see you sitting there, shaking your head at my foolishness, or my "rebellious phase."  I hope you are not, because it is so hurtful to be seen as someone who doesn't think things through, when I am in the process of trying to do exactly that.  I'm still Laura.  I'm still the same girl who looks up to you and who LOVES you dearly.  I'm still that same girl who wants to do what you tell me.  I wish it were still so simple for me to do exactly that.

There is nothing more I would love than to believe 100% in the LDS church again.  I think many members who have left would agree with me.  It is SO MUCH EASIER to stay in the church than to leave it.  We leave behind family, friends, and our heritage.  We don't do it just because we are "feeling rebellious" or "in a phase".  We do it because we are following the dictates of our own conscience.  We are trying to form our own thinking patterns, and reconcile our own beliefs with what we see in the world.  So please, do not write us off so quickly with the blanket of, "These are the last days, and even the very elect will fall away."  That is inappropriately simplifying a very complicated process. 

I suppose I am reaching out for understanding.  I'm not asking for a sign, or for you to convince me of the truth.  I would certainly be open to any thoughts or ideas that I may not have had, as well as any enlightenment you would want to share. 

I love you, always and forever and no matter what.


Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Could It Be Me?

I'm sitting here with tears running down my face.

I suppose I write when I'm trying to focus something in my mind.  To clear a muddled head.

Right now it is cloudy with pain.  Not my pain, but the pain of others.

My faith journey has taken me to a dark place.  This is not something I'm experiencing because of a lack of religion in my life; this dark place is being explored BECAUSE of religion.

I strongly dislike sad movies.  One of the best movies ever made is one I hate; because it is so sad.  "Life Is Beautiful".  Great, amazing, fabulous film.  I hate it.  It makes me feel.  I don't enjoy feeling sadness; or having my paradigm shifted in ways that feel uncomfortable.  But I NEED those experiences, as much as I hate them.

I just finished watching a documentary about Jonestown (watch it on Netflix: Jonestown: Paradise Lost).  Here is a super quick synapsis of what it was about:

               "Jonestown" was the informal name for the Peoples Temple Agricultural Project formed by     the Peoples Temple, an American religious organization under the leadership of Jim Jones, in northwestern Guyana. It became internationally notorious when on November 18, 1978, over 900 people died in the remote commune, at the nearby airstrip in Port Kaituma, and in Georgetown, Guyana's capital city. The name of the settlement became synonymous with the incidents at those locations.
A total of 909 Americans[1] died in Jonestown, all but two from apparent cyanide poisoning, in an event termed "revolutionary suicide" by Jones and some members on an audio tape of the event and in prior discussions. The poisonings in Jonestown followed the murder of five others by Temple members at Port Kaituma, including United States Congressman Leo Ryan. Four other Temple members died in Georgetown at Jones' command.

Depressing right?   But Oh!  The lessons to be learned from this!  At the end of the documentary, the son of Jim Jones, who was away during the mass suicides/murders gives powerful advice.  He says, "Do not separate yourself from the lessons to be learned in this tragedy.  Do not judge those who took the poison.  They are people, just like you and me, who were proving their loyalty to not only their prophet Jim Jones, but to each other."

When Steven Jones said this, I got chills.  I immediately thought, could this be me?

The reason for the chills?  The answer was YES.

My religion had my promise to give everything I own, including my life, if it were asked for.  Though somewhat uncomfortable with this, I felt that God would never ask me to do these things unless it were for my salvation.  I never hesitated to promise this time and time again.  If God wished it, it was right.  My Prophet would never ask something of me that was not right.

The people in Jonestown also felt this.

How many times have I asked myself why I was not more faithful?  How many times have I said that I would fix whatever it was about myself that needed to be fixed in order to be worthy of God?  How deep was my faith in what I was doing?  Would I have laid down my life for the cause, along with the lives of my children?

These are TERRIFYING questions to ask.  Because I do not know the answer.  Was my faith ever so strong that I could willingly kill myself or others?  Could I possibly imagine a time in a place like Utah, where people would die for the cause?

I get it.  It seems far fetched.  Dramatic even.  But it is utterly and terrifyingly possible.  And I want no part of it.

This is why I am in a dark place.  Luckily, I am never one to stay there longer than necessary. (Thank you medication!)  I will go make myself a cheese sandwich and watch a mindless comedy once this is over.  But I will not forget what happened at Jonestown.  I will not forget that people kill every day in the name of religion.  I will not forget that people are shunned, hated, and treated terribly for what people believe to be God's purposes.  This I will not forget.

To me, God is love.  God is everything wonderful, and nothing that would ever hurt another.  Nor would God ever condone slander, hatred, or murder.  I truly believe that God wants us to be happy.  ALL of us.  Not just a select few who are named "worthy".  This is my God.  I am finding Him/Her/It in this journey.  And what a journey it is turning out to be.