I was a very excited TBM teenager. I loved the church with all of my heart, and I made a significant effort to literally surround myself at all times with it. One of my favorite things were Mormonads. Every month when the New Era would arrive, I would excitedly sift through the pages until I arrived at the new Mormonad. I always thought they were so clever and witty. I would carefully cut that page out, and add it to my collection. My room was wallpapered with these blaring messages. I would see them daily, for years. Shaping me. Molding me. Brainwashing me. These subliminal messages were damaging and poisonous. It would build a mental framework that would come crashing down years later.
Here are some that stand out to me. I had every single one of these on my wall. Here is the impact they had on me.
The message says, “Rise above the Blues. “If thou art sorrowful, call on the Lord thy God with supplication, that your souls may be joyful.” I would see this, and I would pray and pray and pray for my depression to go away. I would plead with God to cure me. Messages like this gave me hope that God would heal my mind… with the caveat being ME making an effort to call upon him, read my scriptures more, and fill my life with the Spirit. Imagine my disappointment when that never happened. I felt like something was wrong with ME. “Wickedness never was happiness.” I’m not happy, so I must be wicked. I better try harder to be more righteous. So I would. I would try. It was never enough. I constantly felt like I was falling short to the Lord, and that’s why I suffered depression. I lived like this for years. It breaks my heart now that I silently and heavily carried this blame for so long.
I put this one up in my room hoping it would take away the temptation to masturbate. It was supposed to remind me that Jesus knows everything I do. It didn’t work. All it did was increase my guilt BECAUSE he knew when I messed up. #creepyjesus
“Keep Your Life Sweet. Date wisely. Save your heart for the right time.” Even if you casually date before you’re 16, you’re breaking the commandments, and you should feel bad (and I certainly did). I genuinely believed that dating seriously before the ‘right time’ would spoil future relationships, that it would turn me into a used car. (Not just sex, but any serious relationship.) This break-up note from my 15 year old boyfriend states our dedication to that rule. #mustfollowprophet “I really do love you, and I figure that if we are going to get married in the temple (sorry if it’s too soon to talk about that) then we should keep the ladder[sic] day commandments that Pres Hinckley gives us.”
I wore my modesty as a badge of honor. The only times I ever dressed “immodestly” was swimming, in my one piece + shorts swim suit, and my tennis uniform which was sleeveless. I always took pride that my workout clothes still covered my porn shoulders. To me, it felt like following the higher law. I loved showing 5 inches of shins with my capris. Wearing shade shirts under tank tops was the tits! All of my high school dance dresses were custom tailored to be modest. After all, modest is hottest. I saw this mormonad and agreed. I didn’t want to be dumb. People who show their shoulders are dumb. This was drilled into my brain. Only having sisters, modesty was a big topic around our home. My dad was always making comments about our clothing making him uncomfortable if it were too tight, too low, too short. He would make comments about strangers’ clothing. Everything revolved around the responsibility of the person wearing the clothes. I didn’t wear my first tank top (non workout top) in public until this year. For the first time in my life. Even as a child, I was held to garment-level modesty standards. I was terrified of the thoughts I was causing other people to have. It is a shift in thinking that is taking me a long time to adjust to. My body belongs to me. I get to decide my morals and standards. It is not my responsibility to control anyone’s thoughts but my own. However, this is so deeply engrained into me, and I struggle with it. Almost daily. Hyrum has been a huge support in helping me overcome this. All of the body shaming I experienced my whole life has created a complex that I experience every morning when I get dressed.
I never learned how to relax, or unwind. My parents set an example of always striving for perfection within the church. I developed a perfectionist mentality. Constantly working to get to the next level of godliness. I knew the bar was set high, and I would self-sacrifice to get there. I loved being an over achiever. I knew I wanted to “fill those shoes” in the church the best I could (as a woman). I wanted those leadership callings. I wanted to be a shining example. I wanted to be someone people looked at and never questioned the strength of their testimony. It was exhausting. Years of taking on too much to fill those great expectations has resulted in tremendous emotional and physical exhaustion.
This Mormon Propaganda truly breaks my heart. It illustrates how when you believe (or live) differently, you are erased from the picture. Erased from a community, a group of friends, and worse of all- a family. It says the only way you can have a fulfilling relationship with your family members is to be fully believing and ‘among the fold.’ I know, because I felt this way about so many people I loved. I have journal entries stating my sorrow for the loss of my sisters’ testimonies. Neighbors. Violin teachers. Cousins. Friends. The mormonad perpetuates that ‘light and dark cannot coexist.’ This ad implies that it is the “sinner’s” responsibility to put themselves back in the picture, and that active believers do not need to reach out. “Are you a missing person? Then you better bring yourself back.” The responsibility is on the outcast. The separation is very real. I continue to experience this.
“Don’t Try Bending the Rules. Sure, you can bend the rules, but you end up going in the wrong direction.” Thanks to my mother, I was a very ‘letter of the law’ person. It wasn’t until much later in my church activity that I transitioned into more ‘spirit of the law.’ I would look at this poster, and feel an insane amount of guilt because I watched a PG-13 movie with questionable content. I would resolve to try harder. #alwaystryingharder #nevergoodenough
“The only safe path is straight and narrow.” This one stood out to me, because I love ballet. It really drove the point home that as soon as I let my guard down, it would be painful and dangerous, and all it would take was once. I was scared to make ‘big’ sins. I was scared of how it would change me, if it ever happened. The first night a boy touched my boobs (over the clothes of course) I sobbed and sobbed. I thought there was no way to go back to being ‘clean and pure.’ I felt ruined. It’s because of messages like this. I thought that was bad… then this happened:
When being taught that sexual sins are second only to murder, it’s pretty hard to feel good about yourself when you find yourself in a passionate situation. I was 21. I had sex. And after it happened, I felt a level of self hatred I had never felt before. It triggered a downward spiral unlike any other. I knew I wasn’t worthy of a ‘returned missionary husband’ like I had always
dreamt of marrying been taught to want to marry. I knew I only deserved equal to what I was; scum. “Water reaches its own level.” I lost all sense of self respect because I was taught ‘just once’ was enough to destroy you. I had no reason to try anymore. It was a horrific cycle of self abuse. I became a doormat. Easy to walk over. I truly believed that my worth was tired to worthiness in the church. Since I wasn’t temple worthy, I had no worth. It was an incredibly dark time. I had no motivation to more forward in life. I wish I could go back to that time and give hurting-rachel a really big hug and say, “It’s okay. Your value is not tied to the things you have been told are sins. You are a wonderful woman with so much to contribute to this world, so keep your head up and keep going.”