I’ve had this post on my mind for a long time now, but I felt I couldn’t write it until I revealed the enormous shift I’ve made over the past year. If you didn’t know that I had left Mormonism how could what I am about to say come across as anything other than pandering? I needed you to know that I am in a different place so that I could atone for my past mistakes. I choose the word atone carefully, knowing that my recent declaration could make it sound as though I am trying to be clever. But I know of no better word than atone to convey a complete cleansing, which is what I need. Some of the things I’ve said in the past hurt people in really deep ways and I want to shed the baggage that comes along with realizing that. This does not mean I recognize all of the mistakes I’ve ever made or will continue to make, or that I have the ability to own up to each and every one of them. I am deeply flawed, and within that bundle of flaws comes pride and shame, both which prevent me from being all that I want to be. I’ll keep chipping away at those stones that burden my progress, but for now I hope those I have hurt will accept the apologies I am offering up below and know that they come from the truest part of myself that I am mentally and emotionally able to lay bare.
Most of these apologies are related to my Mormon mindset, but I will start with one that has no relation to the faith of my childhood. While I was pregnant I wrote a post called I’m Gonna Climb That Mountain (those who were hurt by this post have requested that it be made unavailable to the public so that the hurtful messages I voiced within it can’t be spread any further). I’m not sure anymore what I was trying to convey, but reading back over it I can see that it was a terrible post and I said a lot of hurtful things. I’ve been ashamed of that post for a long time, but haven’t allowed myself to take it down because I didn’t want to hide behind my ability to make posts private or delete them altogether. I think women should birth how and where they want. I am sorry that I made any woman feel like her birth plans or birth experience weren’t good enough. I think mothers should have every opportunity to choose the birth experience that leaves them feeling empowered and triumphant, because that is how I felt after the births of my babies and that is what I want every woman to have as well. I think that some women do everything they can to give birth a certain way and it turns out to be something else entirely. Those women should have the opportunity to grieve the loss of a great dream while they simultaneously celebrate the arrival of their little one(s), and no one should ever criticize them for doing so. There is no mountain. There’s just a pregnant woman doing her best for the life she carries inside of her, and then there is a beautiful mother doing her best for her child.
And now for the opinions and thought processes that were a product of my personal history and religious tradition. A wonderful thing to note is that not all of those who come from my community or belong to the Mormon faith think or act the way I did; they are much better people than I. But when I shifted away from Mormonism and a worldview shaped by my youth I left old hurtful attitudes behind and I can’t untangle where these attitudes began and how much of a role my past played in nurturing them. All I can do is acknowledge that they were a part of the Jenna of the past and that I want to leave them behind forever and move toward the better Jenna of the future.
LDS Church leaders spend/spent a lot of time teaching that homosexuality and gay marriage are wrong (more recently the stance has evolved to say that acting upon homosexuality is the sin, that existing as a celibate homosexual is acceptable) and because I thought that they were receiving messages directly from God I listened attentively and formed my opinions exclusively based on theirs. I now reject that mindset entirely and I want to paint rainbows all over my body and march proudly in a Gay Pride parade and shout at the top of my lungs how sorry I am and that I choose love. I am deliriously happy in my relationship with my chosen life partner, and I want every man and woman to have that with the person of their choosing no matter their orientation. I am sorry for the attitudes I espoused in the past regarding the LGBTQ community and am proud to say that I am a straight ally.
I judged people who drank alcohol or coffee. I thought they were weak-willed and gluttonous. I thought that everyone who drank turned into a black-out prone bumbling fool and I was somehow better than them for abstaining. I know now that those substances do neither of those things and that they can be rather delightful to indulge in. I am sorry I indicated that people who drank alcohol or coffee were somehow lesser than me.
I bought into rape culture and spoke negatively of women who didn’t dress to a standard I personally deemed appropriate. I made negative assumptions about people who got tattoos or multiple piercings and was unable to recognize the beauty found in those forms of self-expression. I am sorry I judged people for the things they put on their body instead of the content of their character.
As I tried to explain what Mormonism is, I often maligned the religious beliefs of others. I am sorry that I communicated that systems of belief other than Mormonism are inferior. Two very clear examples of this stand out starkly in my mind and are painful for me to reflect on because it must have been so awful for these women to have me speak to them this way. A long time ago a commenter spoke about how nature was her temple, that whenever she needed to reconnect with her personal conception of the Divine she would head into the mountains and use nature as a conduit for the bond she desired. I dismissed her. I dismissed her and acted like her method was invalid and I am so ashamed that I would do that. Another example of my cruelty can be found in my comment section in an interaction with a woman who spoke about how difficult it was for her to be a Mormon. She couldn’t believe all that the church and the culture dictated, and she struggled to find a way to make the LDS faith work for her family. I read her words and instead of reaching out to her and enveloping her in a virtual hug I told her that she should just leave. That if she couldn’t do Mormonism the way I thought was right that it would be best if she wasn’t associated with Mormonism at all. I somehow thought that her approach to her beliefs was ruining it for the rest of us. Several years later, deep in my own crisis of faith, one of my closest friends communicated the exact same thing to me and I was able to personally experience how bitter and poisonous that message is.
One of my Awakening posts was on my evolving attitudes toward Stay-At-Home-Moms, but reading back over it I realize how selfish that post was. I went on and on about how I had arrived at a place that allowed me to choose how I would spend my time, but I devoted no words to offering penance for the hurtful and damaging attitudes I held regarding all women and their right to choose whether to work out of the home, work at home, work at raising children, or any combination of the three. I am sorry that I piled on to the mountain of guilt women feel about their choices. Have children. Don’t have children. Work in a big building an hour away. Telecommute. Start your own business. Become Mom, Inc. All are valid, and all are good and I support a woman’s right to decide what is best for her own life.
I am sorry for a lot of things. Most of all though, I am sorry for shutting family and friends out of our wedding. It is difficult for me to describe how emotionally painful it is for me to reflect on this, a piercing sorrow that burns to the point of physical pain. My husband’s parents are good, kind, generous, thoughtful people who gave everything they had to raise the man I love so fiercely. I treated them horribly, leaving them outside to wait and wonder as we walked inside the LDS temple and spoke our vows to one another. I loved the details of my wedding; the photos, my dress, delicious food, a sweet and tender choreographed dance, a thousand moments that I dreamed up over months and years of planning. I would give it all up if only it meant I could take back the choice to exclude some of the people that mean the most to us from our wedding ceremony. For this I have shed many tears, and will continue to do so. I am so sorry to all those who were hurt by this.
I am sure there are other things I’ve done. There are many things I know I’ve forgotten, and these are the things which I hope you can forgive me for so that we can move forward. Things I refuse to acknowledge out of pride that I hope to be able to own up to in the future. For now, I will start with the confessions found in this post. I will take these weights that have been holding me back and heave them into the deep, progressing toward something better from here on out.