Thursday, December 9, 2010

Church drama (Long, but totally worth the read)

The past two months have brought a maelstorm of Church-related drama. After some hesitation as to whether or not to make this story public, I have decided that I want to do so. What follows is a time-line of events as they have occurred over this past year.

July, 2010
Several few months ago, we had a Facebook (FB) friend from the ward visit Mister Curie's blog. She is not someone I had ever met, but was added on FB because we had mutual friends in the ward. Shortly thereafter, she emailed us to let us know she had found it. We were very appreciative of her email. We were also wary of watching our visitors to ensure that the blog was not made public knowledge to the ward. Since no new influx of Philadelphia-area visitors immediately occurred, we brushed it aside.

October 22-28, 2010
At the end of October, I wrote a review of the movie Arranged for Doves and Serpents. In the review, I mentioned obliquely my experiences with the garment as a religious covering, and my feelings both taking on and casting off the garment. This review was linked on FB to my account.

In response to my (very well-written, if I do say so myself) review, I received around five FB message inquiries into my belief status, usually presented in a way that I knew what they were really asking was, "Why the hell are you wearing tank tops?". I should note that I had already been fielding related questions from distant friends for several months. None of these individuals had had in-person or in-depth contact with me over the past 2-3 years. They were casual acquaintances.

Annoyed by constantly having to field such questions, I posted a "Note" on Facebook entitled, "Taking off the Band-Aid: My Relationship with Mormonism." (Click on the link to read the letter). The letter was also emailed to 32 people in my ward or who might particularly want to know where I stood. At the time, I had ~ 760 friends on Facebook, most of whom were disaffected Mormons, internet friends, family, high school or college non-Mormon friends, and friends from the local Catholic retreat center we go to. Perhaps 150-200 of the "friends" were people that I had once roomed with; friends of friends in my ward; acquaintances; or Mormon friends that I had not seen in a number of years. This smaller group also included two members of our Stake high council, and the wives or children of several others.

I used my privacy settings to hide the letter specifically from my husband's family, who already knew most of it and for whom it would just be adding salt to old wounds. I also hid the letter from anyone who was 17 or younger; it is not my right or responsibility to influence their religious beliefs. I took my influence in this matter very seriously.

After I was certain that everyone who needed to see the note had seen it, about a week later I removed the note from my FB wall and, using feedback from the note, consolidated my friends list to ~ 250.

Early November, 2010
A week or so later, I randomly ran into the missionaries on my way home from taking Le Petite to school. I had stopped at the store on the way home, and had about 4 heavy bags of groceries in my hands. They asked why they hadn't seen me in church in a while. I replied that church wasn't doing it for me lately. They then kept prodding me for answers for close to an hour, all the while not offering to carry my bags for me (It was very, very rude).

A few weeks after that, the missionaries started stopping by our house. I didn't give them our address - I can only assume they got it from the ward. They stopped by four times in 2 weeks in early and mid-November, never coming inside because Mr. C was never home. Then on a Sunday in November, just two weeks before Thanksgiving, they caught us all at home.

Meeting with the Missionaries - Nov. 14, 2010
The missionaries more or less invited themselves in, and we all sat down in the living room. At the time, I was in the middle of a major winter cleaning, so most of the main bookshelf in our living room was covering the floor, along with random cleaning supplies. But I set it aside to talk to our guests.

The missionaries spent a short period of time shooting the breeze, before getting to the essence of their visit: Why weren't the Curies at church today? Mr. C flippantly replied, "Because we were here." We answered their questions by stating, repeatedly, "We aren't interested in attending anymore. You will be unable to address our concerns in any way that is satisfactory to you, but thanks for your time." However, after about 45 min of being asked the same question in various forms, I finally caved and shared with them my reasons for my disaffection. You all know them; I won't reiterate them.

The poor boys tried hard to "address my concerns," even after I made it clear that it wasn't possible. After sharing stories of their own mothers and how wonderful they are, at one point they tried to argue that gender roles aren't really eternal, and that the Family Proclamation is not doctrinal. Mr. C politely reminded them that we aren't new converts, and that they can't just parse words into new meaning to convince us to come back to church. They bore their testimony, and I was hopeful that meant they would be on their way.

And then... Mr. C decided to share his concerns. Let me simply summarize by stating that I don't think they expected to be told,
Its ok that Joseph Smith had 33 documented wives, translated the Book of Mormon using a rock in a hat, and made magic circles around the site where the plates were buried, but I really think the Church should own their history.
The missionaries stared at each other with a look that said, "Satan is HERE!" and quickly left with protestations that they had another appointment.

I am relatively sure that they dusted off their feet on the doorstep.

After the visit, Mr. C and I were shaking. Mr. C assured me that we wouldn't hear from the ward until after the new year, since Thanksgiving was so close. But then the following Sunday, we had an urgent call from the bishop requesting to see us in our home ASAP.

Meeting with the Bishopric - Nov. 23, 2010
We had expected that the visit would be about our lack of church attendance and the missionaries' reports. On the contrary, the Bishopric insisted that they had no idea that the missionaries had even stopped by. Instead, the stated purpose of the visit was that the bishop had received a tearful phone call from someone "a thousand miles away" who had read my FB letter. I replied, with a nod, "Oh, was it my mother in law?" since, frankly, I can think of no one else in Utah or Idaho who might have been surprised by the letter. He responded that it wasn't family, and he didn't remember their name or how they knew me, and that, oh, just forget about the individual in question, but I got a copy of your note and was concerned.

Specifically, they were concerned about who the note had been read by, how my privacy setting had been set, whether I had posted it on my blog, and how "public" I had made it.

And all for the "good name of the Church".

Now, let me make it abundantly clear - this letter was not disparaging of the Church in any way, and I stand by everything that I wrote in it. In fact, I painstakingly took the time to word everything in that letter such that it was clear that I was not an enemy of the Church, merely that I no longer believed and was tired of nosy people wanting to know my business. I stated as much to the Bishop

Now, I am from the Philadelphia area. The people on my FB friends lists who are active Mormons are largely congregated in the Philadelphia area. I have NO CONNECTION with Utah apart from my in-laws. In other words, with regards to the "teary call" from Utah, I call bullshit. Far more likely, someone in the Stake high council had read the note and was concerned, especially since FB has been on the Stake's hit list for the past few years.

The Bishop mentioned that I had a blog, and their concern for what is written here. I was willing to share the location of this blog, but refrained as it did not seem necessary. And there is no point in outing Mister C's "gayness" to the universe.

At that point, discipline was hinted at, in terms of the need to "protect the good name of the Church" from those who publicly disparage it. I stated that while it was true that in their words, I was in a state of "personal apostasy," it was not my intent to lead others from the Church if it works for them. I do not carry signs at anti-Mormon rallies. I do not seek to destroy others' faith. And, as Mr. C commented,
My influence was being far, far, far exaggerated if they thought that a blog following of 20 fellow disaffected Mormons in any way constituted a threat.
I stated categorically that if discipline was being considered, I would gladly resign. The only reason I have maintained my membership is for Mister C's family's sake. However, I would definitely resign before submitting myself to a Church court of discipline. At that point, the Bishop stated he was just visiting "as my friend," and the conversation was changed to the upcoming Ward party. We asked if they had any questions for Mister C. They did not; they stated they had only come to talk to me.

The meeting ended congenially with an invitation to the Ward Christmas show.

December 7-8, 2010
Last night, I checked my Stat Counter account to check who had been reading my and Mister C's blog. Neither of us checks these religiously, since we don't care so much about traffic. But, I was struck by an influx of Philadelphia-area visitors, to my blog specifically. The visits were from an individual who first visited my blog on Oct. 11-12, 2010, and who comes to my blog through a link on Mister C's. The visitors never stay for more than a few seconds on Mister C's blog before coming here. There are two main IP addresses, and both start off as searches for "mister curie madam curie" or "curie us blogspot" on search engines.

Interestingly, the visitors only read my Mormon-related posts, spending about 20 min on each visit. Whether it is the same person or several is unclear. It is certainly not the person in our ward that we know has our blog address, since her IP is tagged. Whether this increased activity is connected with the Church inquiries surrounding my FB and blog messages, I cannot say. However, after over a year of having no Philadelphia activity on our blogs, suddenly having 4 separate IP addresses from Philadelphia in 2 days is a little disconcerting.

That's the whole saga.


Urban Koda said...

Yeah your letter was definitely not grounds for discipline. I wonder if perhaps the threat was intended more as a stick with which to prod you back into the Church - I've been threatened like that a little too. Didn't work on me either though ;-)

All the best!

Kiley said...

Wow. It sounds like it has been a rough few months! I am sorry. (((hugs)))

It sounds like despite the visit being a visit "as a friend" I would not be surprised if they did not try to hit you with a "court-o-love".

I read your letter and I don't remember there being anything at all said that was not true about the church, and your tone was very fair and diplomatic.

Lisa said...

I know we've already talked about this but I'll reiterate before going any further: this has GOT to be more than annoying, but hurtful and...yeah.

But I'm still a little jealous. I would hope that such actions would help those around me to see that the church jumps on good people who just don't believe anymore.

As that was at its very essence the reason I left, I would like others to see it in action.

And dammit, I had a blog first ;)


But my thoughts are with you as you're being stalked as you are. It's unconscionable. And I do think converts are often pegged, no matter how long they've been around, before the BICs are.

BLB said...

Dang, thought we gave up the witch-hunts back in the 17th Century. So many folks overstepping their boundaries. I hope your post is read by them and they back off.

TGD said...

In a post awhile ago I was going to make a reference to "dusting off their feet" but I took it out. I thought it would have gone overboard. But in all reality, when I was on my mission, I was with a few companions who talked of doing just that on a few occastions.

It bothered me that they would think to do that because it was in essence a judgment and condemnation of someone that we as stupid dumb missionaries had no right to judge or condemn.

Anyway, great post. I sort of wished my exiting from the church was as eventful. It would have given me more to write about.

But when I said no contact, in my resignation, wow, there has been NO contact, except for those that I stayed friends with and that one co-worker. But they don't talk religion.

Madame Curie said...

Urban - That may be the case, but I am more inclined to think it was specifically about concern for the public nature of my disaffection. Our Bishop has known about my issues from the start of his tenure 18 months ago, and known that I was never likely to return to church. And he seemed uncomfortable having to ascertain my level of apostasy. Those things make me think he was there on orders from the Stake.

Kiley - I doubt strongly that our bishop would act of his own accord to discipline me. However, if this is something from the Stake or outside of his hands, then I can see it happening. The Bishop is a pretty low key, live-and-let-live kind of guy. That was why I was so surprised at the purpose of the meeting. But there are others in the bishopric and at the stake level who are hard-liners. Its politics that I don't understand.

Lisa- I don't think the blog has as much to do with this as my FB letter. My Stake has this thing against FB, and they have given several talks about it and encouraged people not to have accounts. I think the fact that I used FB to announce my disbelief confirmed their fear of FB as being rational.

I wouldn't have even posted about this whole escapade here on my blog if it weren't for the Philadelphia-area hits on my blog. That annoyed me, because I thought with the bishopric meeting, we would be done with this.

Apparantly not.

BLB- Seriously.

TGD- I thought I was going to get off without too much drama, too. They had largely left me alone until this whole fiasco.

Mister Curie said...

In other words, if you visit this blog from the Philadelphia area (including suburbs), we are watching for you! Please acknowledge this post and email or post in the comments to let Madame Curie know who you are, particularly if you think we know you. If we don't know you, please at least anonymously comment and tell us we have nothing to fear from you (we recognize there are valid reasons to want to be anonymous beyond gathering juicy tidbits of information for excommunication proceedings). Currently Madame Curie cannot rest peacefully at night due to worrying, please alleviate her fears. In general we are very open people and are happy to answer any questions you may have.

Aerin said...

Madame Curie, Sending good thoughts your way. You are a beautiful, intelligent person.

Abelard Enigma said...

I wonder if the tearful phone call from someone "a thousand miles away" was actually a call from someone in the Strengthening Church Members Committee

Madame Curie said...

Abelard- Sadly, I am not important enough to warrant notice by the SMC. It would be the height of hubris for me to suppose that I am.

Vajra said...

It is I, Vajra, the meek and the small. NOT in Philadelphia. Not dusting my feet (though the living room could stand a thorough cleaning). Not interested in judgin anyone right now. Just wanting to {{you}}.

Donna Banta said...

I just wandered on here (from San Francisco, not Philadelphia.) Wow what an ordeal. It's appalling how those missionaries tried to twist the doctrine, and downplay the Proclamation on the Family. Also amazing that the SP got a "tearful phone call" then "forgot" who it was from.

My husband and I had our names removed 10+ years ago. For some reason I thought the process might have gotten smoother. Sorry to hear it hasn't. Hang in there, and have a good holiday in spite of them!

Pablo said...

First things first: (((hugs))).

Second, always know you can rely on me to listen ANY time.

Third, I think the world of you and Mr. Curie and Petit Curie. You haven't done anything that a reasonable, rational person could view as grounds for church discipline. You're amazing people and shouldn't be subjected to this kind of abusive treatment (especially during the holidays!), regardless of how well-intentioned those dishing this out believe themselves to be.

Fourth, to anyone reading this who has a mind to do anything but be genuine friends to the Curies or simply let them live according to their own conscience, BACK OFF! They are WAY out of your league.

Matt said...

It's true! Your post at D&S was really fantastic and Arranged has become one of my favorite films.

This "loving" that you're getting seems to be not so much about the content of your writing as about who you are and the fact that you write at all. Disaffection is an attack on the church from the believing perspective. If anything, your non-abusive approach is likely more disturbing for its lack of an easy/obvious/tried-and-true means of marginalizing it.

You're just a good person being real and that's SCARY. :D You have good friends around the world though so Philly can fly.

dcr said...

warm wishes from socal!

drakames said...

Wow. That's lots of drama. I don't know if I would be able to handle that as well as you did. I guess that's one good thing about being here in Utah...there are enough Mormons for me to get lost in the shuffle instead of being purposefully sought out.

I guess I understand why the Church would "go after" someone who was questioning doctrine and basically leaving. Make an effort, that's fine. That makes you a good Church member or missionary or bishop. But there should really be a point where you realize that enough is enough. One of the most basic principles is free agency. If you want to choose to not be a member anymore, you should absolutely have that choice, and the ability to choose should be respected. I really don't think that God will hold your bishop accountable if you aren't attending his ward anymore. I wish they would get that!

Just my thoughts...I wish you the best of luck. Sending good thoughts your way!


Carla said...

You are way more congenial and polite than I would ever be in any of those situations. Kudos on keeping your cool.

Seriously, the nerve of some people. What right do they have in prying into your personal business like that?

Anonymous said...

Wow. I am really surprised that they would go to all that trouble, with the visits and everything. I know they aren't wanting to let church members go (still not sure if I'm off their roles, but been trying for months), but I didn't think they were that concerned about what disaffecting members had to say. I do get the feeling that they're encouraging their members to gripe at people who say anything "derogatory" about their church (aka, "true" about their church) from some of the things I've heard.
Sorry I stuck this long comment on here. Just happened across your blog. Great stuff.

Madame Curie said...

Thank you, Friends. Your words are all so kind and supportive. I'm not sure where I would be without the bloggernaccle.

I've finally decided to make the break official and resign. That will be a post for another day.