Sunday, October 12, 2014

#OrdainWomen I covenanted to obey my husband, and who I was to judge when I should stop doing that?

The profile I wrote for Ordain Women was published last week. Ordain Women has limited the comments, so anything "victim blaming" has been removed. There were a few comments like that... "It was your lack of testimony," or "It was your insecurities," and a few others that I never read.

I appreciate the Facebook administrators at Ordain Women censoring out comments blaming me for the abuse I experienced. I am a lot better than I once was, but it's hard not to be thrown back into old beliefs about abuse. Or about myself and how I deserved abuse, or it wasn't really abuse, or... other things that are inaccurate but I believed for a long time.

There was one comment made (and left) that has been playing with my head for days. I thought about commenting on Facebook, but decided I would rather write my thoughts here.

First, the comment. It was in response to me saying that the bishop quoted the covenants I made in the temple to obey my husband.
"Have you been to the temple? We covenant to obey our husbands AS THEY OBEY THE LORD. Abuse is not of the Lord. Nor is blind obedience to a man who is clearly not living by the spirit or honoring his covenant to love and care for you as the Lord loves and care for us. Your experience and the experience of many sister is terrible, but not the result of church doctrine. Unfortunately your Bishop's counsel was lacking and left you feeling unprotected. That is really sad, but that is not the fault of the church. We can always question our leaders counsel if it doesn't seem to fit within church guidelines and abuse or coercion are not. Holding the Priesthood would not make you anymore equal or powerful then you already are in the Kingdom of God. The idea that women are unequal or less because they don't hold the Priesthood is false doctrine. Go to the Lord in honest prayer and He will reveal the truth of it to you."
And now my response:
Yes. I have been to the temple. Every week for a three year period, and every month at the time of the conversation with the bishop. I understand what the covenant says - obey your husband as he obeys the Lord. That seems to say that I could be the judge of whether or not my husband is obeying the Lord, and then I can make the choice... but it just isn't that simple.

I had a bishop telling me he was speaking for God as our judge in Israel. He was telling me that Larry (husband at the time) was doing his part and obeying the Lord. I was the one that needed to repent. I was not doing my duty and my responsibility as a wife. I could not have the spirit with me because I was not spending the time at home that I needed. I was working two jobs, going to school, doing public speaking about eating disorder recovery, and trying to spend time with my family of origin. I was also committed to my church callings as choir accompanist and nursery leader. The bishop told me I needed to stop spending so much time away from the home, because all of those things were taking away from my real responsibility of being home and keeping my husband happy.

When I told him I didn't agree with his advice, he took my temple recommend. He told me that I was not worthy to go to the house of the Lord, because I wasn't sustaining my local leaders. I needed to go home and repent and pray. I went home angry, sad, scared. I also went home feeling sick with guilt and fear that he was right. I was sinning. I needed to repent. What he said FELT so wrong, but if he was right and I was sinning and the spirit had left me... how was I to know what was right and wrong?

Also... I had been taught all of my life to trust my priesthood leaders. I believed that priesthood authority came from God, and the bishop spoke for God... I hated what he said, but I believed he was right, because he HAD to be right.

Several months passed... My brother was going through the temple to take out his endowments. I wanted to be there. I wanted to share that with him and with my family. (I also didn't want them to know I was a dirty sinner. I had done so much work and tried so hard to prove that I was worth all of the time and money spent in my recovery - I owed it to everyone to stay good and clean and pure and WORTHY.)

I still didn't believe the bishop was right, but I believed that by humbling myself and telling him he was right, maybe I could show God (and the bishop) that I was repentant. I set up an appointment. He started right into the temple recommend interview questions... When we got to sustaining local leaders, I answered with a yes. He asked me specifically about being willing to follow the counsel of the Lord that came through him.

I told him I didn't know how I could quit one of my jobs. We needed the money. I told him I didn't know how I could quit school. I was hoping that if I worked hard enough and fast enough, eventually I could get a job that paid more, so I wouldn't have to work 60+ hours per week. I told him I would quit doing the public speaking, and asked if that was enough.

He reminded me that my duty and responsibility was to be home and keep my husband happy. If I could say I was doing my best to fulfill my true calling, then he could accept that... and he gave me my recommend.

I went to the temple with Jeff. A few months later, Larry told me he wanted to move away. I did what he said, because he was the husband. I found a way to transfer schools. I found a new job. We found a nice apartment and we went. That also removed me from my family. I no longer COULD spend time with them, so I didn't.

It's hard to describe the mind-fuckery that was the sexual and emotional abuse from Larry combined with the spiritual and emotional abuse that came from church doctrine and church leaders. I'm trying, but if you have never been there, I don't know if you CAN understand how much that combination could affect you.

It's been nearly fifteen years, and of course I no longer believe the bishop spoke for God. I don't believe that he had any knowledge or authority over my life - despite the doctrine teaching that bishops can receive revelation for the people in his ward. But I believed it at the time.

And like I said in my profile... the basic doctrine combined with all of the things that men have said and done to me have combined together to tell the story of my life. It is a sad story. It is full of horrible shit that no one should ever experience, but I did. Any number of little things could have changed to change my story. The doctrine on women and the priesthood is just one thing that could have made a difference. If I didn't believe that men had more authority in my life, and I had a right to authority over my own life, I wouldn't have allowed Larry or the bishop or anyone else to treat me the way I was treated.


  1. I wasn't going to comment but now I just felt the need to say that I resent that bishop. He reminded me of all the terrible bishops, stake presidents, and mission presidents I had over the years who told me to do things that went against what I felt was right. But I'm also angry that I felt like I had no choice but to follow their advice.

    1. I think I resent that bishop too... but even more than him, I resent that it never crossed my mind to question. I can say it didn't feel right NOW, but at the time, all I felt was guilt for not doing what he told me to do... and guilt that there was a part of me that disagreed... and guilt for not being GOOD.

      It really wasn't even on my radar to doubt what he said. I believed with everything in me, so I did what I thought I was supposed to do.