Our lives are filled with so many options and choices that change our paths in extreme directions. There have been some major life choices that I’ve made influenced by my Mormon upbringing that now has me wondering where I would be at had I not been so devout and credulous.
I served an enlistment in the military. Being female, my parents weren’t very happy with my decision to do that, but after some time they decided that they were proud of me and accepted my choice. The fact that I maintained my strict Mormon practices I’m sure had
nothing everything to do with it. I remember the Drill Sergeants calling for someone to cover my ears when they got pissed at the platoon so that I wouldn’t hear the colorful language that was about to fly our way.
I also remember insisting on going to church rather than to go on a daylong pass to some activity (I don’t even recall what it was, but as it was on the Sabbath…). I ended up staying back at the barracks helping a girl who had gotten an Article 15 (an administrative discipline that can include docked pay and extra duty—I’m not sure if she had the former, but she did have the latter) with cleaning all the gas masks in the NBC room after she went to church services with me.
When I got to my duty station this slowly eroded. My church activity went through phases, but my core beliefs (even when I wasn’t living them) remained the same. One of which was my view on the Theory of Evolution.
As I’m sure you can guess by now, I was raised that the Bible was literal and Evolution was garbage. Evolution is the great lie told by the godless scientists that didn’t know the truth. I believed this fully, as it was what my parents taught me. I mean, they wouldn’t lead me wrong, would they?
I remember the first time that I heard a story that involved Evolution. I was in first or second grade, and an archaeologist came to our class and talked to us about dinosaurs and fossils. During this presentation, he told us about how a raptor evolved into a bird. I was fascinated that one animal could change into another and I eagerly shared the story with my parents that night. I was quickly informed that this was a grand lie and to disregard everything I had heard.
This pattern continued through my history and science education, and I had to compartmentalize truths. These here were “truths” for religion, and these for school. With geology and how old the earth was estimated by scientists to be, my father would say things like, “the Bible never specified how long Adam and Eve were in the Garden of Eden before The Fall, so there’s no telling how old the Earth really is.”
As with many other things in the church, this seemed like another cop out, but because of his views and his position on the school board, that influenced the text books that were selected to be taught at my high school. Even in the biology text took, Evolution wasn’t given more than just a paragraph mentioned in passing, almost as an afterthought.
I was so sheltered, I never imagined that any Christians didn’t think that Evolution was a sham. This came back to bite me in the ass and certainly changed where I am today.
Several years ago, before the President Obama’s first term, I became involved with a man in England. I went to visit him and on my second trip over he asked me to marry him. I agreed and we started planning my move across the pond. During this time, certain topics started to surface as I started going back to church. I just started another of my on-again cycles, and this didn’t sit well with him. He told me I was “too Mormon” and that my church was a cult. Even today, when I don’t identify with the church, people saying that or saying that Mormons aren’t Christians makes me bristle.
This was also when I found out that he believed in Evolution. I was crushed. We had arguments about how we would raise our future kids, as I told him I refused to to teach them that they were descended from monkeys. His solution was that we just wouldn’t have kids then. This was a deal-breaker, and I soon sent the ring back to him.
With my eyes opening to the world, I look back on this incident and wonder where I would be if my views had been based on reality. I’m actually grateful that this forced my hand, as there were red flags in the relationship that I chose to ignore because of my fear that if I passed him up I would never marry. (As with any super conservative religious group, marriage was heavily stressed. In fact, it’s taught that it’s required to get into Heaven in the Mormon church.)
As with many other things I was taught in my childhood, I still have the gut reaction to deny the truth of Evolution even while I tell myself that the science supports it. Before I had said that “if God said he created us in his image, who am I to argue?” I was sure that the scientists made it up in order to explain their origin since they weren’t believers. It never occurred to me that it was the other way around.
Now, I feel like I’ve been cheated. I feel like there’s a huge gap in my education, because my parents were such fundamentalists that science and reason were stamped out any time they tried to ignite. When I went to college my father said that I would encounter many controversial subjects but that the Spirit would tell me what to believe. I regret that it took me a decade and a half to see the level of crap that I was led to believe and now thirst to learn what was withheld from me all those years ago.
Now, if you could recommend a book for me, so that I could catch up on what I should have learned then,what would it be? I would love to hear any suggestions you have.