On the ills of monogamy . . . ?!

Someone recently noted how the church makes a crisis attack on the family with itself as the solution . . . Ironically, the arguments/ideals the church uses today as its solution for civilization and the family  (i.e. fidelity within monogamy) are diametrically opposed to those upheld by Brigham Young and other early church leaders, who claimed monogamy was going to bring the ruin of modern civilization as it had the Roman empire.

Familiar with these quotes?

“It is a fact worthy of note that the shortest lived nations of which we have record have been monogamic. Rome…was a monogamic nation and the numerous evils attending that system early laid the foundation for that ruin which eventually overtook her.”
– Apostle George Q. Cannon, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 13, p. 202

“…the one-wife system not only degenerates the human family, both physically and intellectually, but it is entirely incompatible with philosophical notions of immortality; it is a lure to temptation, and has always proved a curse to a people.”
– Prophet John Taylor, Millennial Star, Vol. 15, p. 227

“Monogamy, or restrictions by law to one wife, is no part of the economy of heaven among men. Such a system was commenced by the founders of the Roman empire….Rome became the mistress of the world, and introduced this order of monogamy wherever her sway was acknowledged. Thus this monogamic order of marriage, so esteemed by modern Christians as a holy sacrament and divine institution, is nothing but a system established by a set of robbers…. Why do we believe in and practice polygamy? Because the Lord introduced it to his servants in a revelation given to Joseph Smith, and the Lord’s servants have always practiced it. ‘And is that religion popular in heaven?’ it is the only popular religion there,…”
– The Prophet Brigham Young, The Deseret News, August 6, 1862

“This law of monogamy, or the monogamic system, laid the foundation for prostitution and the evils and diseases of the most revolting nature and character under which modern Christendom groans,…”
– Apostle Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 13, page 195

“We breathe the free air, we have the best looking men and handsomest women, and if they (Non-Mormons) envy us our position, well they may, for they are a poor, narrow-minded, pinch-backed race of men, who chain themselves down to the law of monogamy, and live all their days under the dominion of one wife. They ought to be ashamed of such conduct, and the still fouler channel which flows from their practices; and it is not to be wondered at that they should envy those who so much better understand the social relations.”
– Apostle George A Smith, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 3, page 291

“I have noticed that a man who has but one wife, and is inclined to that doctrine, soon begins to wither and dry up, while a man who goes into plurality [of wives] looks fresh, young, and sprightly. Why is this? Because God loves that man, and because he honors his word. Some of you may not believe this, but I not only believe it but I also know it. For a man of God to be confined to one woman is small business. I do not know what we would do if we had only one wife apiece.”
– Apostle Heber C. Kimball, Journal of Discourses Vol 5, page 22

“Just ask yourselves, historians, when was monogamy introduced on to the face of the earth? When those buccaneers, who settled on the peninsula where Rome now stands, could not steal women enough to have two or three apiece, they passed a law that a man should have but one woman. And this started monogamy and the downfall of the plurality system. In the days of Jesus, Rome, having dominion over Jerusalem, they carried out the doctrine more or less. This was the rise, start and foundation of the doctrine of monogamy; and never till then was there a law passed, that we have any knowledge of, that a man should have but one wife. ”
– The Prophet Brigham Young, Journal of Discourses Vol. 12, page 262

“Since the founding of the Roman empire monogamy has prevailed more extensively than in times previous to that. The founders of that ancient empire were robbers and women stealers, and made laws favoring monogamy in consequence of the scarcity of women among them, and hence this monogamic system which now prevails throughout Christendom, and which had been so fruitful a source of prostitution and whoredom throughout all the Christian monogamic cities of the Old and New World, until rottenness and decay are at the root of their institutions both national and religious.”
– The Prophet Brigham Young Journal of Discourses, Vol. 11, p. 128

(List of quotes found at Rethinking Mormonism.)

I say, “Pish posh!”  Being loved and cherished (exclusively!) by my husband is the most beautiful thing in the world!  A great marriage is a great deterrent to depression.  It brings great stability to our family, and a sense of security to the children.  I have come to understand that Erik is my gift and that my happiness is to be found in my (monogamous!) marriage.   Sorry guys–you got this one wrong!

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The Inner Search

I, for one, am very grateful for my evolving beliefs about God.  I have found peace in believing that it is not God’s primary intention to test us–nor to solve our problems once we’ve “dotted all our i’s and crossed all our t’s.”  In things both spiritual and temporal, I believe he waits for us to think things through, to try things out, to ask questions, to seek meaning, to learn from our experience, to determine what is good, to fill our lives with joy –which is the very purpose of our being here.

Having one’s understanding of God gift-wrapped in the revelations of a holy book or a living oracle may be comforting, but it tends to keep one from a free, responsible search for truth, goodness, and meaning.  Relying on (i.e. fully trusting) the received wisdom of one’s prophet, guru, or holy book as the “Answer” to all of life’s questions is the very seedbed for stagnancy and susceptibility, for it diminishes one’s inherent wisdom/conscience/perception while also thwarting future personal growth and enlightenment. More troubling, however, is that blind submission to authority can lead individuals to do atrocious acts which they would never have considered without the religious indoctrination fueling the flames of hate.

Enslavement of the mind via religious tyranny is a pathetic condition, a tremendous opportunity cost for the oppressed, and I cannot believe it is a divine principle.  My experience is that God does not force us to see things his way!   I imagine he delights in our strivings but also accepts us at whatever spiritual place we “rest” or “abide in” for a time.  How different from religions who attempt to force their adherents to accept and follow their “Way” to salvation, who hold up the threat of eternal damnation for those who cannot believe.  Exercising coercion with fear-filled threats is diabolical, in my view.  How ironic.  I worship a much more benign God, a god of complete understanding, who is thrilled at our wonder, ambitions, and growth but who also sympathizes with us when we are simply not ready to change.

I have experienced the great blessing it is to wonder, to inquire, to open the door to my heart.  The Inner Search– seeking the “light within”–is a process I’ll never tire of.

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On overcoming depression

I wrote the following article on March 9th and posted it at forum.newordermormon.org.  I think it’s worth sharing here on my blog, as well, for it chronicles details of my journey out of depression “peace by piece.”

“On Overcoming Depression”

I . . . served a mission and suffered serious depression during it. (You wouldn’t know that from the positive letters I wrote home, trying to “buck up” and be enthusiastic about the work.) I was a zealous missionary with little compassion for my companions, which I truly regret now. I believed God expected MUCH from me, from my companions, from the members, and from the investigators themselves. The self-criticism I inflicted upon myself and the judgmental attitude I held toward others were so damaging to my well-being and happiness, and to relationships. I was frustrated, too, by having my “success” depend upon the decisions of others. (That was difficult for me–so different from the reward system of academia I had thrived in.)

Returning to college after my mission was very fulfilling despite the pressure of papers and finals, and falling in love and then marrying [Erik] (who’d become my best friend) less than a year later brought me delight, comfort, and exciting plans for an adventure-filled life together. Not that he was perfect–some of his quirks were annoying, and he wasn’t as spiritual as I would have wished–but I needed him for a thousand reasons and thrived upon his love, support, and friendship.

Two years later we had a baby, and I chose to quit my job to stay at home. My depression soon returned. I lost myself as an individual as I juggled all the demands of a young baby, new house with unfinished yard, time-consuming calling in the YW, family finances, etc. The depression continued in various degrees for the next ten years as I added three more children to our family and felt completely overwhelmed by the demands of life and, especially, God.

But I never sought psychological counseling during that time because that seemed “weak” (I’m stubborn) and because I refused to be “officially” diagnosed as “mental” . . . (Ironically, I was just that–unwhole!) And I never entertained the idea that my religious beliefs were the source of much of my depression as a mother–believing instead that the culprits were feminism (making me dissatisfied with being a full-time mom) and my own inadequacies (I “deserved” my pain because of my many faults).

When [Erik] described to me three years ago the reasons he could no longer maintain a testimony of Joseph Smith nor his church (reasons such as polygamy/polyandry/duplicity, multiple First Vision stories, older revelations being revised to support later Priesthood restoration claims, the Masonic origins of temple ceremonies, magical thinking and treasure hunting–mormonthink.com stuff), I was worried! For him, and me. The threat of losing my testimony–changing my beliefs–felt painful, overwhelming, scary, and eternally risky, and I fought it tooth and nail. (Hadn’t I received many spiritual “witnesses” of the Church and its scriptures?! Wasn’t God testing our faith as members of his Kingdom– even of things hard to understand–expecting us to trust our heart, our spiritual witnesses, rather than our reason/intellect?!) God did NOT want us to lose our testimonies, I believed. Losing my testimony would be “bad” (!!!), I held.

For a time I prayed, fasted, and attended the temple weekly with an “assurance of things hoped for”: that the “beauty and majesty of the gospel” would be “unfolded in the eyes of [Erik’s] understanding,” per his patriarchal blessing–contingent upon his serious effort to “heed the admonitions and live for the promises” stated in the blessing. I honestly believed DH would come to believe again as I did, and I told friends and family as much.

For 18 months, [Erik] chose to love me throughout the slow, awkward process of my evaluating my inherited [LDS] faith tradition: my denying there were problems, insisting the kids shouldn’t know about the problems, hesitantly attending another denomination with [him] every other week to be supportive, endlessly discussing belief/salvation/purpose of life/truth/God after sermons or sacrament meeting, eventually being willing to investigate LDS history outside of church-edited sources, having to confront and interpret potentially damning details in the history, having to analyze my personal “witnesses” of the spirit and second guess their importance and meaning, attending the temple regularly just so I wouldn’t lose my testimony of it, losing my zeal for bearing testimony of the church and the need for missionary work, hoping to influence others in Sunday School to have a broader perspective on life/truth, worrying about “missing the mark” and failing the “test” of faith if the church happened to be true, and ultimately experiencing epiphanies that reassured me that God was okay with my change in beliefs.

[Erik] had believed that never in a million years would I come to see things his way (I was the most devout person he’d ever met). I had believed the opposite: that within a million years (hopefully sooner!) he would come to understand the truth and see things my way (despite his not being the most devout person I’d ever met–God is faithful!). The “beauty and majesty” he came to witness over the course of those 18 months was not that of the prophetic calling of Joseph Smith, the rightness of the doctrines he revealed, nor the authority he claimed for himself and his church. Rather, it was the “beauty and majesty” of the “gospel of love.” He learned that love prevails! Loving–acting in loving ways–is powerful! Not only did such love from him help our marriage survive the schism of differing beliefs, it had been what opened my eyes to trust in God’s mercy–for apostate DH, for imperfect/susceptible me, for all of His children “walking in faith” (and not knowledge) here on earth–which belief ultimately delivered me from my depression!

Here’s how love worked: [Erik’s] kindness, service, and loving acceptance of me during that whole process allowed me to trust that he was a good man (having acted with integrity and courage in rejecting the idea that God would ever condone or command ungodly and dishonest behaviors from church leaders), a good husband (a good provider, helpful around the house (our dishes guy!), a good listener, and a cheerleader who encouraged me to do whatever I felt I “needed to do”), and one accepted of God (despite DH’s rejection of the COJCOLDS, and despite his agnostic leanings). Love opened the door to my deprogramming and ultimate deliverance from depression!

I could mention several experiences I’ve had with God, but suffice it to say (for the sake of time) that I now trust that God is merciful toward us despite our weaknesses and ignorance! I wish that every member of the church who suffers from depression could understand that–that God is understanding, not exacting! He allows us to make mistakes and learn from them. He invites us to discern what is good and beneficial and to live deliberately, not fearfully. He wants us to be happy and to “go for it”–our dreams/desires–not to shrink in submission to irrational received wisdom! These new beliefs of mine have curbed depression! I still worry about what others think of me (working on that), and I can get overwhelmed and scattered at times, but I no longer feel a heaviness in my chest and the consuming feeling that “Life is just TOO hard,” “I am broken,” and “I’m not worthy of God’s love.” As Hampton and the Hamsters sing: “Life is good, life is great, for tomorrow I can’t wait . . . ” (Yeah I have small kids. Wink)

Sorry this is so long. I wanted to explore “out loud” how it was that depression ceased to be a debilitating obstacle in my life–how I came to smile more, be more flexible and resilient, and more charitable toward others. Best wishes in becoming who you want to become, believing what you want to believe, and breaking free from debilitating depression!

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