Turn Away From the Light…A Dark Invitation

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And if the dam breaks open many years too soon

And if there is no room upon the hill

And if your head explodes with dark forebodings too

I’ll see you on the dark side of the moon

-Pink Floyd-

I got bitch-slapped on Facebook last week.  I was in one of those on-going, soul draining never-gonna-go-anywhere heated discussions with someone I am FB friends with,  regarding LGBT rights.

—Deep Breath—

Every once in a while, I am deeply triggered by this whole equality thing, particularly when the perpetrators of righteous discrimination are centered in my cultural roots.  So I found myself upset and riled up. At the end of the evening, a stranger stepped in, and basically called me an agent of darkness.  She urged her friend to ignore any and all things that upset her, and to step out of the darkness (me) and only focus on the light.  It was a huge bitch-slap moment for me, and I thank her for it.  It stung, as those moments do, but it brought me right to awareness of why I felt so triggered.

And it has everything to do with the dark.

There has been many times of struggle in my life when my father has told me this beautiful metaphor.  He talks about how the Self is an ancient holy temple, filled with rooms.  Some have windows and sunlight, and we allow people to come into those places.   But inside each temple there are also windowless rooms, places that sit dark and locked up.  There is one room at the center, the inner most sanctuary, called “the holy of holies.” It is the center of the temple, and of Self, where we store our most secret and dark parts of who we are.  It takes courage to open the door to these dark places, shine a light inside, and find out what we have stored there.

I have always loved this metaphor, as it validates a deep yearning in me, and makes me feel brave.  Because I am a person who wants to look inside those places.  And see what is there, to name it, to own it.  It has been my personal quest, to become more aware, more conscious.  My drive to peer into the dark was emphasized enormously by becoming a mother, and leaving my religion.  I have been bravely opening those doors and peering inside, flashlight in hand, an act that directly defies the teaching to “only be in the light.”

What I have found there has been… unpleasant.  All my darkest thoughts.  My ugliest feelings.  Monstrous and powerful fears that I thought were gone, but were just tucked away in hiding.

The opening of those rooms has sent me deep into depression.  Riddled me with anxiety.  Caused terrible, tear-filled clashes with people I love most.

I am realizing now that this temple story has to change a bit.  I have been at war with my darkness. There are hard and unpleasant emotions stored there… jealousy, anger, selfishness, immaturity, bitterness, loathing, rage, unbelievable sadness.  No one wants to feel those.  No one wants to see those stored up in their innermost spaces.  Shining a light in there has made me feel tremendously ashamed and panicked to the point of blindness.

We are so conditioned to keep ourselves in the light. To be scared of the dark. To run from the “bad emotions” and deny they exist at all. In the culture I was raised in, this teaching is so powerful, people are encouraged to never read anything that opposes their point of view, or makes them feel uncomfortable.  To never allow someone to challenge their ideas or discuss things that bring fear or uncertainty.  There are good feelings, and bad feelings, and people are supposed to avoid those bad feelings.

AT ALL COSTS.

And the costs are untold.   We are denying ourselves.  We are cut off from who we really are.  The whole range of human emotions must be acknowledged in order to experience what we all long for as human beings… love and belonging and meaningful connection.  To ignore/deny/negate/make taboo all of our human emotions that are not joyful and uplifting is devastating.  Either we become so cut off from ourselves, we feel depressed and hollow, or we label every “dark” emotion as “bad” and become crippled with self-loathing and guilt for our humanness…. and judgmental of everything.

What I am starting to understand, is that I don’t need to shine a light in my dark places.  I need to open the door, step into the darkness, take a seat, and get to know it.  Welcome all of my Self to exist and be acknowledged.  When I enter these dark places, I now work to become fully present.  A terrifying endeavor after a lifetime of fighting against these unpleasant emotions.  I sit, and step into my body.  Draining my mind, which is constantly operating in the past or the future, and bring full awareness to my body.  Attention to the physical sensations forces me into the present moment.  I notice how frustration makes my throat throb, and anger makes me hands clench and my stomach burn.   I feel how shame makes my toes curl and my eyes close and my body collapse in on itself.  Rather than deny it or fight it, I just acknowledge that it is there, inside of me.  Manifesting in ways that I was  unconscious of before.  These dark emotions are asking for allowance.  The awareness gives it permission to be there, and I am finding that once permission is given, the intensity of the emotion dramatically drops, but it doesn’t disappear.

Following the recognition, comes a question.

“What do you need?”  

The idea that I should welcome these emotions has changed me.  I have been spinning and sinking in a deep swamp of self loathing, feeling that I only had two choices:

1. to completely deny the existence of the dark.

2. willfully explore the dark rooms, condemn the darkness as bad, and fight like hell.

There is another way.  Radical Self-Acceptance.  Which begins by understanding that those scary places have something to say.  When I give it a voice, and permission to exist, I am finding that there is not a good and bad, just wholeness.

A person.

As I begin to sit in my dark rooms in welcome rather than judgement, I realize the scope of this practice. As a mother of three girls…being capable of modeling self acceptance, showing them how to love themselves, to feel welcome in every room, embody all of the human parts, not just the light ones.  Their beauty lives in the dark places too.

There is a reason the innermost sanctuary, the holiest of holies, is a perfectly dark room.

The most sacred work is done in the dark.  The answers to the simple question,  “What do you need?”   are the real reasons we are here.

Worthy to Wear; the Initiation

I love to see the temple
I’m going there someday
To feel the Holy Spirit,
To listen and to pray.
For the temple is a house of God,
A place of love and beauty.
I’ll prepare myself while I am young;
This is my sacred duty.
I love to see the temple.
I’ll go inside someday.
I’ll cov’nant with my Father;
I’ll promise to obey.
For the temple is a holy place
Where we are sealed together.
As a child of God, I’ve learned this truth:
A fam’ly is forever.
Words and music: Janice Kapp Perry, b. 1938. (c) 1980 by Janice Kapp Perry.
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I walked into the Denver Temple, hand in hand with my fiance, my mom and dad just a few steps ahead of me…I was ready.  I had been found worthy.  I had a temple recommend in my pocket, and I was going to cross over from a child in preparation, to a grown woman.  I would be making covenants with Heavenly Father, participating in what I had been taught since birth, would be the most sacred, beautiful, spiritually powerful experience of my life.

They don’t really tell you WHAT is going to happen in there… WHAT the ceremonies are really like.  They do not define the kinds of promises and oaths you will take.  It is spoken about with reverence and hushed tones and vague references to spiritual wakefulness and glory and sacred duty.

I walked in filled with anticipation and readiness, I was finally going to be a part of the inside, I would at last be able to feel the tremendous spiritual affirmation that I was going to be ok.  That I was doing the right thing.  That love will conquer all, the naive mantra of so many twenty-somethings…Rick would be in there to share this experience with me, support me as I went through my initiatory and endowment ceremony.

When I came out, my heart thunked slowly and heavy in my chest. One clammy hand held tightly to Rick’s, the other to a sack of new underwear.  I strained to feel the spiritual aliveness, the glow I had been promised.  I was terrified.  I could not process the experience quickly enough to match the lightness in Rick’s stride.

 It was just a week before we were to return to a mormon temple to be sealed for time and all eternity.  I fought the sting of tears in my eyes as we climbed into the car, and I positioned my new purchases, small plastic packages filled with white bottoms and capped sleeve tops that would be my new normal, a reminder of this night’s covenants with God. I rubbed the rolled edge of the garment bottoms through my jeans as Rick started the car.  My parents waved proudly, big smiles on their faces, as they drove out of the parking lot.

“So!  You did it Meg! How do you feel?”  He looked imploringly into my eyes, as he had done in the celestial room of the temple, trying to read me, feel out my reaction.  He knew I was scared.

He knew.

I knew that as a mormon couple, we would live with a constant expectation to return to the temple regularly and perform the same rituals, over and over, in the stead of all the people who had died without the glorious privilege of participating in the ceremonies on earth.  I knew that my zealous, return missionary, soon to be husband, would want to do what was expected.

“I never want to do that again,” I whispered quietly into my lap, tears pooling in my eyes.  I stared at my hands, concentrating on not blinking them out.  Rick squeezed my leg.  I could feel his desperate searching for inspired words.

“Ok.  Meg.  It’s ok.  I know it’s new.  We are going to be married.  You are going to be my wife.  That’s all we need to think about.  Pray about it.  It will be ok.  I love you.”

“I love you, too.”  I squeezed his hand and kissed him quickly. I wanted to grab him and tell him how scared I was, how terrified.  I did not want to let him down.

 I wanted to be filled with spiritual fulfillment.  The disappointment and distaste for my first temple experience after a lifetime of being told it was the most amazing, uplifting, magical experience was a crushing blow to my delicate faith.  But I took some big breaths. I held my love’s hand in mine.  I stared at the golden angel Moroni, glowing in the cold January air at the top of the temple’s highest spire.  He was blowing his horn, announcing his truth.

 I watched him in the rearview mirror as we drove away, becoming tiny and distant in the night sky.

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Skivvies and Damnation

“Ordinances and covenants become our credentials for admission into [God’s] presence. To worthily receive them is the quest of a lifetime; to keep them thereafter is the challenge of mortality.” –   LDS President Boyd K. Packer

I better just get the underwear thing out of the way.  I am not sure that the necessity of special  underwear in order to find eternal salvation is something I can just zip on past.   It’s a topic that needs addressing.  Not just because people in general are fascinated with the idea that mormons wear secret underwear, (they do) but also because it was certainly a huge part of my overwhelming unhappiness as a mormon woman,  and a painful hurdle to overcome.

 But.

I dread it….writing about this part.   Because it’s absolutely sacred to the mormon population.  And while I will poke fun, be irreverent, and unafraid to talk about the church’s darker, more damaging side… it is not my intention to hurt or disrespect LDS people.

I don’t believe in the church anymore.  And the secrecy surrounding many of the beliefs and teachings were damaging and hurtful to me, and many others. There is so much secrecy, and so much fear in talking honestly and openly about real experience.  There is no safe forum for mormon people to express their feelings of doubt or fear or disagreement.   I have been filled with much hesitation to share some of these more sacred elements out of respect for the LDS people, out of my desire to not feel hated and condemned by them, my own family members especially. I squirm in my seat as I write this.   It has taken me a long time to arrive here, to this moment when I believe that I deserve to share it, to own it, to call it out, just as they will spread their message and try to find people to blindly follow their faith.

 I will share the sacred parts…  the temple, the underwear, with intention…not to desecrate something holy, but to own my story and shed the shame and propensity to hide behind propriety at the cost of my soul, my spirit.  It is all I can do.

 l love mormons.

I was one.  I am married to someone who was molded and shaped into an incredible father and husband by the LDS faith.  I was a fifth generation mormon, and almost all of my ancestors and living relatives are still faithful LDS people.   Mormons are some of the most generous, caring, loving, and thoughtful people you will meet.  They are resourceful and energetic and loving and they will bring you a casserole and a pan of brownies, help you move, jump your dead battery on the side of the road, or visit you when you are sick  without pause or reciprocation.

So.  Deep breath.

To start with the basics, yes, mormons do in fact wear special underwear.  Mitt Romney?  He wears the undies.  So does his wife.  Any faithful, active adult member of the LDS community with a church resume like the Romney’s must wear the garments, or they would be deemed unworthy of holding those important church positions.  Children do not wear garments…you must be 18, found worthy, and go through sacred and very secret rituals and ceremonies in an LDS temple in order to purchase and wear garments.

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-Denver, Colorado Temple.  The temple I first received my garments.

Mormons believe the underwear is absolutely sacred and is not supposed to be shown to others or spoken about to outsiders.  The underwear is worn to keep one modest, serve as a reminder of the promises made to God, and when worn faithfully and correctly can be protective.  There are hundreds of stories floating in mormonland and even shared over the pulpit about people who were physically protected in accidents or fire by wearing the garments.  These are the stories that confirm the notion to outsiders that mormons wear “magical underwear.”


Mormon underwear is all white, a symbol of purity.  The men wear a basic white shirt, and the bottoms look like white boxer briefs but the legs are lengthened to a few inches above the knee.  There are secret symbolic markings embroidered into various places on the bottoms and tops.  The markings are small, white and not very noticeable.  The women wear tops that look like tank tops with capped sleeves.  They come in a variety of neck lines, but they all come up high enough to modestly cover indecent cleavage exposure.  For women with bigger breasts, the tops are sewn with boob pouches, of sorts, so that the top will fit smoothly over all the skin.  The catch is, women must wear the sacred garment under the bra.  Ladies will understand the supreme discomfort that this may cause the well endowed LDS.  I don’t care how smooth you try to make those boob pouches, they are simply not good enough to prevent bunching, puckering, and movement of the bra in all the wrong places.  The bottoms look like white spandex, that go down to a few inches above the knee, to prevent scandalous immodest flashing of the upper thigh.  The female garments have the same markings as the men…  a strange phenomenon of equality within the faith, not often replicated.

Thankfully, the design has changed over time, as they used to be one-piece numbers, with long sleeves, long pants…and a crotch flap. These beauties may still be available for worthy purchasers. Awesome.  The one-piecers were a piece of history my mother loved to remind me of as we commiserated about the hot misery of those boob pouches. And despite our shared discomfort, the sacred power of those garments held tremendous control over our lives.  The influence the underwear has in daily LDS life is hard to articulate, and the guilt and perceived wickedness over letting them go was immense.  The decision to slip on a pair of good ol’fashioned bikini briefs caused almost paralyzing anxiety at times, paralleled only in my emotions now, as I let go to the fears associated with writing about the underwear.

Releasing that fear was a challenge, when I am going to burn in hell for writing about this.  Actually, I don’t think most mormons believe in “burning in hell.”  Hell is called outer darkness, and is rarely spoken of.

I have come far enough to have let go of that belief, the idea that the kind of skivvies I wear is important to God, or a measure of my worthiness as a human being.  Can there be a heavier weight, a more taxing exercise, than a continual critical measuring of self worth?  The memory of that measurement still makes it hard for me to breathe, it presses in on my throat, my voice disappears.

Floating out here in the “outer darkness,” I feel so much lighter.  And I marinate in this idea:

We are all worthy.

Always.

The worthiness is brilliant and it’s still flowering within me.

The projection of strength, faith, and sacrifice is paramount in the mormon community, and even within the family circle there can be a thick communication barrier.  It’s a barrier that still snakes it’s way through me, coiling around my darkest places, the most raw fears.  I know that LDS people will feel disrespected and offended by the things I write here, about my own personal experience as a mormon woman.   I see the fear in my mother and father’s eyes when I tell them about the things  I will write here, for the world to read.  For their family members to read. But their discomfort it is unavoidable,…inevitable, if I am to accomplish what I have set out to do…to find my voice and be unafraid to use it.  That voice has been bound and gagged for too long by the remaining vestiges of mormon unmentionables.   I have set out to peel away the layers of my self, to discover what is underneath, and scrape that away too.

When all the layers are gone, the only thing remaining will be what is at the core of us all.

God.  Love.

My hope is that my willingness to be raw, naked and condemned by people I love will help someone else find the God within themselves too.

I will send this small nugget of release into the blog-iverse with the promise of more details to come.  The next layer must come off.  I’m just going to catch my breath first.

To be continued.