EMBARRASSED OUT OF RELIGION
EMBARRASSED INTO ENLIGHTENMENT
EMBARRASSED OUT OF RELIGION
"A really religious upbringing ends up causing some really embarrassing things to happen to a young boy and forces him to have to abandon organized religion and come up with a less embarrassing belief about life and his place in the universe..."
When I was a kid my Dad used to warn me that on "Judgement Day" everyone that every lived was going to come together in a giant movie theater and one by one everyone's entire life from start to finish would be played on the big screen for everyone to see, and every single thing that we ever did during our lifetime would be revealed to everyone. (All of the good things we did, all of the bad things we did, and "everything in between".)
What scared me most about this scenario was the "everything in between" part. I mean, I had never committed any of the major sins like murder, adultery, or blasphemy and I went to church on Sundays and was nice to people, but there were a lot of things that I did on a daily basis that I would be uncomfortable doing in front of other people. (Much less in front of everyone that ever lived!) So during my childhood years whenever I would change my clothes, use the bathroom, or bathe I would always turn the lights off and do it in the dark. (That way when my life was shown on "Judgement Day" everyone wouldn't see me naked, and... well..."Judge" me.)
Because of this belief I ended up becoming so bashful about my body that when I heard the news that my Grandpa was going to have to be moved into a nursing home because his health had gotten so bad that he could no longer change his clothes, use the bathroom, or bathe without having someone help him I instantly became the "health nut" in my family and I refused to eat anything that was bad for my health and that would increase my chances of ending up in an "Assisted Living Facility" someday.
"A SHELTERED CHILDHOOD"
I grew up with parents who were really religious (They were "Mormons" to be specific.) and they went out of their way to shelter me from a lot of things in my youth...
We had a TV but we only had one channel (The PBS Channel) so I grew up watching shows like "Sesame Street", "Mr. Rogers Neighborhood" and "Reading Rainbow". We also owned several movies but the only movies that were allowed in our house were "family friendly" films like "101 Dalmatians", "Star Wars", and "The Wizard Of Oz", and before I could watch a movie my parents would watch it by themselves first and if there was anything even remotely sexual, vulgar or indecent in the film they would edit it out by setting up 2 VCR players and putting the original film in one VCR and a blank VCR tape in the other and they would then make a special edited copy of the movie with all of the stuff that they didn't want me to see left out of it.
We lived on a farm way out in the country where neighbors lived miles apart from each other and other than going to church on Sundays we almost never left the farm. (We grew most of our own food, plus my dad was really good at building and fixing things and my mom did all of the cooking and cleaning and even made all of our clothes so we were a very self sufficient family.)
My parents also "home schooled" me because they didn't agree with some of the things that they teach in public schools and they worried that "Non-Mormon" kids would have a bad influence on me.
I honestly loved the way that I was raised though. We had hundreds of acres of land and I loved being able to spend time alone in nature. I didn't have any actual friends to play with in my childhood but I created "imaginary friends" that I really liked and I didn't have any desire to go out and explore the neighboring towns but on clear nights I would look up at the stars and dream of someday exploring outer space.
But then one day when I was 15 years old a mysterious black car drove up to our house (Our driveway was literally 8 miles long and it was an unpaved dirt road that was full of holes and steep hills so it was extremely rare that a stranger would just show up at our house unexpectedly.) and honestly, it always terrified me when I would see an unknown car slowly coming up our long driveway because there was no telling what kind of a person it was going to be or why they would want to come to our house so bad that they would be willing to make the difficult and risky drive necessary to do it, (plus it would take the
police about an hour to show up if we had to call them since we lived so deep in the country) so for me an unknown car coming up our driveway was the ultimate "Stranger Danger"!
I hid in the house while my parents went outside to see who it was and what they wanted and I watched through the window as 2 men and a woman wearing business suits got out of the car and informed my parents that they could no longer "home school" me. I remember the woman kept saying that the way that I was being raised was "child abuse" and she asked my parents how they expected me to be able to face the real world someday if I stayed out of it for my entire childhood. I didn't want to go to school but they said that I had to start going the following Monday and that if I didn't show up my parents would
lose custody of me and be put in jail, so there was nothing I could do about it...
"GOING TO SCHOOL"
For my first day of school my mom suggested that I wear my church clothes so I could make a really good first impression, so I put on my church clothes and waited at the end of the driveway for the school bus. When the bus came I nervously got on and all of the other kids were wearing T-shirts and jeans and were looking at me like I was from another planet. I didn't dare make eye contact with anyone and just looked for a place to sit. The seats on the bus were built so that 2 kids could sit in them and there was only one seat that was completely empty so I sat in that seat and just looked out the window and tried to ignore the feeling that everyone was looking at me and whispering to each other about me.
I felt like I was in prison, and to make matters worse I was the new person in prison that had no friends and was completely vulnerable, but then about 10 minutes later the bus made another stop and a really big kid wearing a football jersey got on the bus and sat in the seat with me. I nervously smiled and said "Hello" to him and he smiled and said, "Hello" back to me. (Although when he smiled he kind of looked like he was trying to keep from laughing at me.)
I then went back to looking out the window and minding my own business but then I thought to myself that it would be really smart to have this big kid as a friend because nobody would dare pick on me if they knew he liked me so I tried to think of a way to strike up a conversation with him...
I looked down and noticed that he had a book in his hand so I pointed at it and said, "Oh, what book are you reading?" and he said that it was a book that he had to do a book report on for "History Class" about the Native American Indians. He then handed me the book so I could look at it and on the cover of the book there was a picture of some Indians sitting in a circle around a camp fire. I had never seen Indians before and the first thing I noticed about them was that they weren't wearing any shirts (which is technically not "immoral" because all of the Indians in the picture were males) but because the Indians also had long hair (which I had always thought that only women were allowed to have) and because they were wearing loincloths (which looked like skirts to me) I thought that they might actually be women (with no shirts on) so I gasped and put my hand over my mouth, my heart started pounding out of control, and my eyes almost bulged out of my head! I couldn't believe what I was seeing and I wasn't quite sure whether I should look away or keep looking.
The big kid noticed that I was troubled about something so he asked me, "Are you OK? What's wrong dude?" so I pointed at the Indians and whispered to him, "Are those girls?" He then burst out laughing and turned to the kids sitting behind us saying, "This new kid saw this book cover and was like, "Oh my God are those girls with no shirts on???" and everyone started laughing.
Then one of the boys sitting behind us leaned his head over the seat and said to me, "Hey man, can I ask you a serious question?" I said "Yes" and he said, "Have you ever seen a "pair of boobs" before?" and because of my wholesome upbringing I had no idea what he was talking about so I asked him, "What is that?" and everyone burst out laughing again.
By the time we got to the school everyone on the bus had laughed about the incident (including the bus driver) and by the end of my first day of school everyone at school was referring to me as "The New Virgin".
"GOING ON A MISSION"
When I went to church the following Sunday the president of our local church ("Brother Smith") came up to me and said, "So Lee, I hear that you are going to a public school now. How do you like it so far?" I just kind of smiled and said, "It's OK." but then I made the HUGE mistake of telling him that there were 1,000 kids at my school and I'm pretty sure that I was the only Mormon there, and I also told him that a lot of the kids at school teased for being a "virgin". He looked very concerned about it and said that he wanted to have a meeting with me in his office the following Sunday after church.
Normally when "Brother Smith" wanted to have a meeting with me it was about me going on a mission for the church. (It was an "unwritten rule" in the Mormon church that once a boy turns 19 he devotes 2 years of his life to God by serving as a "missionary".) When you become a missionary the church will send you to a random place of their choosing (and often to a foreign country where people don't even speak English and you will have to learn the language really really fast) and for the next 2 years your job will be to go around knocking on people's doors and trying to talk to them about the Mormon church. I
didn't really want to go on a mission and was actually dreading it quite a bit, but the church had put an unbelievable amount of pressure on me to do it, plus my parents had worked really hard to save up enough money so that I could afford to do it, and I of course didn't want to disappoint God by not doing it, so I figured that I would go on a mission just to avoid having everyone be ashamed of me, and avoid having to spend the rest of my life with the embarrassing stigma of being the Mormon guy who didn't go on a mission.
When I showed up to the meeting the following Sunday "Brother Smith" looked really happy and said, "I have a big surprise for you Lee!" he then reached under his desk and pulled out a huge box that was wrapped up like a present and told me that the Lord had asked him to give me this very special gift. I opened it with anticipation and inside the box there were 1,000 small paper booklets entitled "For The Strength Of Youth". I was confused and asked him, "What are these?" and he said that they were small informational pamphlets that I could give to each of my new classmates telling them about the church and also telling them about the moral standards that all young men and women their age should strive to live by in order to keep the "Law Of Chastity" such as not wearing revealing clothing, getting up and walking out of a movie theater if the movie you are watching starts getting sexual, waiting until you are at least 16 to start dating, and of course waiting until you are married to have sex.
I felt as if every cell in my body was cringing. I knew full well that if I actually tried to give these booklets to the kids at school everyone was going to laugh and make fun of me for it, but I also believed that if I didn't do it God would be mad at me for not taking on such an important mission (Trying to save 1,000 of his "lost" Non-Mormon children.) and that he would hold me personally accountable if any of my classmates ended up dieing without ever being introduced to the Mormon church (which is the only true church) since he personally entrusted me with the responsibility of being the one to tell all of them about it but I decided not to do it because I was too embarrassed, so I tossed and turned all night trying to decide what to do and because I was so "God Fearing" at the time I ended up deciding that I better just do it.
The following morning I put all the booklets in my backpack and took them to school with me and during lunch when everyone was in the cafeteria I took out the booklets, took a deep breath and without saying a word I started passing them out to everyone. (All I did was hand them to people, and if someone would ask me, "What is this?" I would just shrug my shoulders and act like I had no idea because of how embarrassed I was.) And deep down I hoped that most of the kids would just throw the booklets away without even bothering to read it (that way I wouldn't get in trouble for not passing them out and I also wouldn't get publicly humiliated for passing them out either) but unfortunately everyone ended up reading it just to see what in the world it was and once they did I became the complete laughing stock of the school and was now being referred to by everyone as "The Mormon Virgin".
It was so awkward passing out those booklets that I started to have serious doubts that I would be able to spend 2 years of my life knocking on the doors of total strangers and actually having to talk to them about the church. (I believed that the Mormon church was true at the time, but it was really embarrassing for me to talk to other people about it because the Mormon God worked in such mysterious ways that it was impossible for me to try to explain Mormonism to someone without getting the feeling that as I was telling them about it they must be thinking to themselves that I am the most gullible person in the world for actually believing this stuff.)
And because of my "virgin" reputation I never had a girlfriend in school and I actually ended up developing a really strong phobia of girls. (I liked girls, but if a pretty girl was around my instinct was to get as far away from her as possible out of fear that someone would say or do something to embarrass me in front of her and I never dared to go up and introduce myself to a girl out of fear that I would end up saying or doing something to embarrass myself in front of her.)
But on the bright side, I felt good knowing that at least I was keeping the "Law Of Chastity".
Nothing was more fascinating or thought provoking to me as a child than "outer space" and my Dad actually majored in physics and astronomy at the university that he had attended in his youth so any time he would talk to me about something I would always try to somehow turn the conversation into a discussion about space because I really wanted to learn more about it.
And one night while me and my Dad were watching a program on PBS a commercial suddenly came on showing beautiful images of space while a haunting voice said, "Join Carl Sagan as he takes you on an epic journey through space and time, as he explores the mysteries here on Earth and the possibilities of life elsewhere in the universe, coming up next on "Cosmos". I got so excited that the hairs on my arms stood up and I immediately turned to my dad and asked, "Can we watch it Dad???" and I was so disappointed when he told me that it was getting kind of late and that I should go to bed since it was a school night.
I was even more disappointed during the summer when school was out and I didn't have to wake up early yet my Dad still wouldn't let me stay up and watch "Cosmos" for some reason. Something about the way that he wasn't letting me watch it made me think that there must be something about the show that he didn't want me to see (which made me want to see it even more) and when I found out that a replay of "Cosmos" came on at 2:00A.M. on Tuesdays I secretly started to set my alarm for 2:00A.M. so I could watch it late at night when my dad was asleep, and what I saw changed my life...
When I watched "Cosmos" for the first time the host of the show ("Carl Sagan") looked so much like my Dad that I thought it was him at first, (he even wore the same style of church clothes that my Dad did) and just like my Dad he was very knowledgeable about space as well. However, there was one MAJOR difference between Carl Sagan and my Dad that I couldn't help but notice as I watched the show and that was that Carl Sagan spent the entire hour of the show talking about space while if my Dad tried to spend an hour talking about space he would probably spend the first 5 - 10 minutes or so talking about the planets, the stars, and the galaxies and it would be really interesting to me, but then he would start to talk about God and then he would start to quote scriptures and before you knew it the conversation would no longer really be about space and would instead just be a general discussion about the church and at that point I would no longer feel the sense of wonder and I would be reduced to just kind of nodding my head in agreement to whatever he was saying just to be polite.
When I would watch "Cosmos" I kept thinking that at any moment "Carl Sagan" was going to ask the viewers at home to please open their "Book Of Mormon's" to a certain chapter and verse and start talking about Mormon stuff like my Dad would, but he never did it and deep down I knew that if he did do something like that his credibility as a scientist would completely go out the window and the viewers at home would be laughing at him, and I then thought to myself that if "Carl Sagan" would look silly talking about the Mormon church imagine how silly I am going to look when I go on a mission!
In one particular episode of "Cosmos" Carl Sagan was talking about something called "evolution". I had never heard of evolution before and I thought that it was a really interesting idea that an animal could grow the necessary limbs, wings, or eyes needed to adapt to their environment over the course of millions of years. And when I went to church the following Sunday my Dad ended up spending over an hour talking to people after church (as usual) so to pass the time until I could go home I went into an empty class room and started drawing on the chalkboard, and because I was thinking about evolution I drew an evolution chart that showed how armadillos could evolve into the fancy beaded seat cushions that some people have in their cars over the next 10,000,000 years...
I stood back and looked at the drawing and felt a bit uncomfortable because although the drawing was intentionally silly I realized that the thought of armadillos evolving into beaded seat cushions actually didn't seem anymore silly or unrealistic to me than the story of "Noah's Ark" that we were learning about earlier that day in church, but then "Brother Smith" suddenly walked in the room and looked at the chalkboard with a curious grin saying, "Now what do we have here?" So I told him, "It's an evolution chart of armadillos evolving into beaded seat cushions." and with a nervous laugh he looked at me and said,
"A what?" He then looked at the chalkboard again and I watched as the expression on his face went from amused to confused and then from confused to concerned and then to a look of pure anger...
"WHO DREW THIS?" he shouted with such an angry tone that I pretended not to know. He then took the eraser and erased my drawing. I asked him why he erased it and he said that the drawing was "terrible". (I didn't feel offended by him saying that because I know that you can't please everyone and I didn't make the drawing for him anyways.) But then he said something about the drawing that actually did bother me...
He said that the drawing was "Satanic". I couldn't believe that he actually said that so I asked him how the drawing was "Satanic" and he said, "It was promoting "evolution" and in a very perverse and sacrilegious way!"
I then stopped and realized that "Brother Smith" would accuse a lot of things of being "Satanic", (He would always warn me and the other young boys at church about "Satanic" music like "Metallica", or "Satanic" books like "Harry Potter", or "Satanic" movies like "Back To The Future".) and because I had never heard, read, or watched any of these things before and because he was the president of the church I would always just take his word for it that they were evil and that they were created to lead young people like myself away from God, but once I heard him call something that I personally made out of simple childhood curiosity "Satanic" I started to think that maybe he also had never heard, read, or watched any of the music, books, or movies that he would accuse of being "Satanic", and that perhaps he was calling things "Satanic" out of prejudice...
The word "prejudice" means to "pre-judge" someone or something without actually getting to know them, such as when a God fearing person like "Brother Smith" sees a picture of a male rock band with long hair and says that they make "Devil Worshipping Music" without ever even hearing any of their songs.
When I got home from church I opened the family encyclopedia to the word "evolution" but the page that it would have been on was mysteriously missing, so when I went to school the next morning and I saw the science teacher ("Mr. Bookman") walking down the hallway I walked up to him and asked him if I could ask him a science question. He smiled and said, "Sure" so I asked him, "Are we going to learn about "evolution" this year?" and he cringed and he looked around to make sure that nobody else had heard my question (and to make sure that nobody else would be able to hear what he was about to tell me...)
He then told me, "Lee, I'm not aloud to teach evolution here... At my old school I was able to teach it, but not here." I told him that I didn't understand and he said, "Well look, this is a very religious community and let's just say that the Bible and science tell very different stories of how the Earth was created." It then hit me that the reason "evolution" wasn't allowed to be taught at my school was the same reason that my parents had edited out all of the scenes of Princes Leia in a bikini from "Return Of The Jedi" before I could watch it... Things were being hidden from me and it was because of religion.
"WHAT ABOUT THE DINOSAURS?"
Once I started watching "Cosmos" a lot of skeptical questions started showing up in my mind like, "Why is there no mention of Dinosaurs in the Bible?" and "How could the Earth only be 7,000 years old like the church claims if dinosaur fossils are millions of years old like science claims?" It seemed that science and religion couldn't both be true and that I would ultimately have to choose only one of them to believe in. I loved science but I really feared the thought of there not being a God because that would mean that when we die it's all over and we don't live on in some way, so I tried desperately to figure out a way that I could continue to learn about science while also still believing in the church and I came up with the following theory...
As an artist I can tell you that any art that I made 10 years ago will make me cringe if I look at it now. (Which is a good thing because it's a sign that I have improved and "evolved" as an artist.) Even George Lucas (The man who created "Star Wars" which is considered by many to be the greatest film series of all time.) is embarrassed of his "Star Wars" movies now, which is why he keeps going back and altering them by adding new modern day special effects to them and why he has purposely made it almost impossible for anyone to be able to watch the actual original versions of his Star Wars films today. And since God is the ultimate creator maybe he also gets embarrassed by his older works.
They say that even God makes mistakes, so when God creates a species that ends up not working out (Like the "Dodo Bird") maybe he would rather that we all just forgot about it, and if the giraffe originally had a much shorter neck but over time God kept deciding to make the neck a little bit longer until it finally looked perfect to him maybe he doesn't want us to see the early "demo" versions of giraffes and would rather have us believe that he made the giraffe perfectly on the first try.
And then one night as I was laying in bed and thinking about the idea of even God getting embarrassed I suddenly had a vision of what it must have been like to be God back on the embarrassing day when the first dinosaur fossil was discovered by man...
The year was 608 A.D. I was God and I was sitting in Heaven and observing the Earth when I suddenly noticed that a group of people who were digging a canal in Africa had just stumbled onto the first dinosaur fossil and they were all running back to their villages to tell everyone about the mysterious giant skeleton that they had just found.
I panicked and said to myself, "Oh no! The humans just found out about the dinosaurs that I created! It was something that I did millions and millions of years ago in my youth. At the time that I created the dinosaurs I thought that they were the coolest thing ever, but now that I look back at them they look so big and bulky that I am embarrassed to admit that I created them, and what's even more embarrassing is the fact that because I had made them so big and bulky they were producing so much methane gas that it caused the weather on Earth to get a lot hotter and ultimately caused the dinosaurs to go extinct. (Yes, their "flatulence" literally caused them to go extinct and it almost caused all of the other life on Earth to go extinct as well.) It was such a colossal embarrassment that I would rather not be associated with the dinosaurs, but because I'm God I can't just tell people that the dinosaurs were created by someone else and that I had nothing to do with them."
I then came up with a genius lie. I told my faithful followers that when I created the Earth I put dinosaur fossils in the dirt to test people's faith in me. In other words, I told them that I didn't really create the dinosaurs and I just made the fossils as one big practical joke that only a gullible non-believer would fall for. (And my faithful followers were actually gullible enough to believe me!) LOL It was a brilliant joke within a joke and it allowed me to get out of having to take credit for the dinosaurs.
(I know that I shouldn't lie, but I am an embarrassed God and I have a "perfect" reputation to keep.)
Once I started going to school I was exposed to all of the "bad words" that my parents did such a good job of keeping me from hearing up until that point, and once I looked these words up in the dictionary and found out what they actually meant I thought that swearing was the funniest thing in the world due to my religious upbringing...
One of the reasons people use swear words is for "shock value" and because these words were NEVER used at my house they had about 100 times more shock value to me than they did for kids who grew up hearing their own parents use that kind of language all the time.
And because I was raised to believe in things based on faith alone and not to question what I was being told I was also very naive and would take things a lot more literally than other people would since I just didn't have enough skepticism to realize when people were joking around with me. (When someone would say something sarcastic to me like, "Hey I like that shirt you're wearing" when there was a big mustard stain on it I would take it as a sincere compliment and would wonder why everyone would start laughing when I would respond by telling the person, "Thank you", and if someone was making an exaggerated claim that wasn't meant to be taken literally like, "It is so cold outside that I saw a bear wearing a jacket." I would think that they were being serious, or I would perhaps have just enough skepticism to think that maybe the person was on drugs or something and that's why they saw a bear wearing a jacket, but I would never question the sincerity of what people were telling me.
So whenever I would hear someone use a swear word I would think about the literal dictionary definition of the word rather than understand that swear words weren't meant to be taken literally and were instead used as tools to help convey emotions, and when you consider the actual dictionary definitions of swear words it really made no sense at all that people would shout these words when they stub their toe or can't find their socks, so for me personally it was so shocking and so bizarre to hear people use swear words that it would always make me burst out laughing when people started swearing.
But as much as I got a kick out of hearing people at school use the words that were completely forbidden at home and at church I also developed a deep paranoia that someday I would be somewhere with my parents and someone would start using language like that in front of us. I knew that if that ever happened it would be the most awkward and cringeworthy experience ever so in the rare times that my parents had to go to town for something I would usually just stay home instead of going with them because of how scared I was that someone would start cussing.
Because my parents were married in the Mormon temple they wore special underwear known as "Mormon Temple Garments" to serve as a reminder of their sacred vows.
In the past Mormons actually believed that this underwear served as protective armor much like a bullet proof vest. (As a matter of fact, when the founder of the Mormon church "Joseph Smith" died in a shootout back in 1844 an autopsy revealed that he wasn't wearing his temple garments when he was shot and many Mormons back then believed that if he had been wearing his underwear that day he would have been protected and wouldn't have died.
Nowadays most Mormons don't actually believe that this underwear offers that kind of physical protection. (Although every once in a while you will hear a story about a Mormon being in a car wreck or some other life-threatening situation and escaping relatively unharmed while claiming that their underwear is the only reason they survived.)
This special underwear is very large (it covers half the body) and it is going to look weird to any Non-Mormon so the "protection" that this underwear actually does provide is in keeping married Mormons too embarrassed to wear revealing clothing in public since it would result in their strange looking underwear showing. And I imagine that it has even prevented some married Mormons from having an affair when they suddenly found themselves in a situation where they were alone with an attractive Non-Mormon and there was a mutual desire to do something, because they knew in the back of their mind that once the clothes start to come off the other person would get really weirded out by their underwear so they decided not to do it and instead just told the other person, "I'm sorry but I can't do this, I'm married and it would be wrong."
When I turned 16 I still didn't know how to swim and I really wanted to learn. There was a really big pond on our property but I was too scared to go in it since there were snakes, snapping turtles and God knows what else lurking inside of it, but when me and my parents would go to church on Sundays we would drive past a beautiful lake and my Dad told me that since it was my birthday and I still didn't know how to swim we could go to the lake and he would finally give me swimming lessons. I was really excited about going, but unfortunately when we got to the lake there were several other people there swimming and having cook-outs which made me really uncomfortable thinking that all these strangers were going to be watching me learn how to swim. (Plus I was too embarrassed to take my shirt off or even wear shorts in public and I knew that people were going to be looking at me weird for swimming with all my clothes on.)
My Dad told me that he was going to change into his swimming clothes in the bathroom and that while he was changing I should try to find a nice spot for us to have our swimming lessons so I started walking along the river trying to find the least crowded area possible, and after about 5 minutes of looking around I suddenly looked back and saw my Dad coming out of the bathroom wearing nothing but a pair of swimming shorts with his Mormon underwear still on underneath. (The shorts he was wearing only covered up about 1/4 of his underwear and the other 3/4 were completely exposed!) So I got really embarrassed and hid behind a tree unsure what to do, and because my Dad didn't see me anywhere he got concerned and started shouting my name really loud which made everyone there look at him and made me so embarrassed that I ran back to the car when he wasn't looking.
My Dad had no idea where I was or what happened to me and I knew that I was probably going to get in trouble for going back to the car without telling him, but his underwear was showing so bad that there was no way that I could go back out there with all those people around, so I ended up just waiting in the car until he eventually returned to the car looking for me.
When he finally showed up in the parking lot about half an hour later he looked so relieved and happy to see that I was OK, but his being happy to see me only lasted about 5 seconds and then he got really mad at me and started yelling, "Why did you come back to the car without telling me? I thought that you could have been kidnapped or fell in the lake and drowned!" I had never seen him get that mad before so I was really scared and I of course couldn't tell him the truth (that his underwear was really embarrassing) so I lied and told him that when he was in the bathroom changing some kids wanted to beat me up
and I was really scared so I ran back to the car to hide from them. He then stopped being mad at me and instead shifted all of his anger towards these kids that didn't even exist and said, "What??? Well come on, I'm going to go have a talk with them and their parents about it." I then said, "No, No, No, No, No. It's OK Dad. Let's just go home. I forgive them and we can just let God deal with what they did on "Judgement Day". but my Dad just said, "Hey, you can't let people treat you like that in life and I as your father am definitely not going to let anyone get away with treating you like that, so come on!" He then
grabbed my arm, pulled me out of the car, and dragged me back to the lake where all the people were at.
As he was dragging me and we were approaching the people I started saying everything that I could think of to get out of this situation like, "They were just some 8 year old kids Dad." and "They just wanted to squirt me with water guns." but it didn't matter, my Dad was determined to turn this into a life lesson about standing up for myself. (And it seemed that God was determined to turn this into a life lesson about not telling lies.)
When we got to the lake he asked me where the kids who were picking on me were at so I looked around and said that I didn't see them anymore and that they probably left already so we should probably just forget about it and go home, but he just said, "Well then we'll ask around if anyone knows anything about them."
He then dragged me along as he went up to everyone there and introduced himself (with 3/4 of his underwear exposed) and said that he was looking for a group of kids about 8 years old who were harassing me with water guns and scared me so bad that I had locked myself in the car. And to make matters worse one of the people there was a girl from my school named "Laura" who sat next to me in Math class and who I always dreamed of someday having the courage to say "Hello" to, plus there were also a couple of boys from my school there as well and they of course ended up telling the entire school about it.
We left the lake without having any swimming lessons and I of course never wanted to go back to the lake with my Dad again so I never did get swimming lessons and I continued not to know how to swim...
"BAPTISM FOR THE DEAD"
Shortly after I turned 16 "Brother Smith" drove me and five other teenage boys from the church in a van all the way to the "Holy of Holies", the Mormon temple in Salt Lake City Utah so we could perform a special ritual known as "Baptism For The Dead". (Mormons believe that being baptized is necessary for one's salvation and they also believe that if a person dies without ever being baptized a living Mormon can technically be baptized for them as long as they are the same gender of the dead person.) Each of us were going to get baptized for 10 dead people and on the drive there "Brother Smith" told us that while we were getting baptized the spirits of all of the dead people that we were getting baptized for would be there watching and rejoicing as we saved them.
The problems was that I never learned how to swim due to my dad's underwear and I was afraid to be baptized since I would
have to be completely submerged underwater. (Even when I would wash my hair at home by putting my head under the
bathroom sink I would get this scary vulnerable feeling like someone was going to sneak up on me when my head was in the
sink, and I even had bumps on the back of my head from when I would be washing my hair and I would suddenly hear a
strange sound and get so startled that I would accidentally hit my head on the faucet, so I worried that I would totally freak
out when I got baptized.) I told my parents that I was scared but they made me go on this trip anyways.
When we drove up to the temple it looked like a castle and was very beautiful on the outside, but it was very "weird" on the
inside. There were a lot of strange symbols and things going on that I didn't understand. There were also areas of the temple
that I wasn't allowed to enter and the people who were allowed to enter those areas were required to take an oath swearing
that they would never reveal the temple secrets to anyone and that if they ever told anyone what they saw they would be
executed! (Which I thought was kind of scary.)
The rooms that I did get to see looked incredibly expensive (fancy furniture, gold framed paintings and crystal chandeliers)
and it was really impressive to me since I lived in the country and had never seen anything that extravagant before, but at one
point I went to sit down on a chair that looked really fancy and "Brother Smith" freaked out about it and said, "Lee! That's a
really expensive chair! Don't sit on it!" (which I thought was kind of nonsensical) and then he joked in front of everyone that
the chair looked like it cost more than my parent's car and everyone started laughing. (My family was viewed as the "poor"
family in the church while "Brother Smith" was admired and envied by a lot of people for being the most financially wealthy
person in the church and sometimes he wasn't very good at hiding the fact that he saw himself as superior to everyone else.)
I got embarrassed about the joke and no longer felt impressed by how expensive everything looked and instead started to
think to myself, "Is this really what people's tithing and donation money is going to?" and I wondered why there were secrets
about the temple that I wasn't allowed to know about. (My grandma would send me a birthday card with a 5 dollar bill in it
every year for my birthday and I had to give 50 cents of that money to the church as "tithing", so it seemed unfair to me that
even though I helped pay for the temple it was being used for things that the church felt I had no business knowing about.)
When it was time for me to do my baptisms they had me go into a changing room and put on an all white outfit, then I was
taken to the "Baptismal Room" which had 12 life size ox statues with big horns standing in a circle with the baptismal font
balanced on their backs and "Brother Smith" (who was going to be baptizing me and the other boys) was standing in the
middle of the baptismal font with a very serious look on his face and motioned for me to enter the water. (It was all so strange
and looking back it's easy to see why baptisms for the dead are performed by young children like me who really don't even
know what is going on and are just so amazed by how expensive everything looks that they don't doubt that they are in a
"Holy" place.) I slowly got in the water which felt very cold to me so I was trembling from the cold water and from being
nervous and "Brother Smith" held my wrist while raising his other hand in the air and said the following prayer...
"Having been commissioned of Jesus Christ, I baptize you for and in behalf of "Frederick Cooper", who is dead, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Amen."
He then attempted to lower me backwards into the water but as soon as I felt the water start to touch the back of my head I freaked out and pushed him away from me and messed up the baptism causing us to have to do it all over again. (According to the temple rules a baptism doesn't count unless the entire body is submerged underwater, so even if one hair on your body doesn't go underwater you have to the baptism again until you do it right.)
"Brother Smith" was very upset at me and said to me in an angry whisper, "This is the Lord's water! Be still!" I apologized and did my best to recompose myself. He then said the prayer again and went to lower me underwater but I freaked out again when my head was almost about to go underwater and I messed up the second attempt too, and then the third and fourth attempts as well because I was just too scared to go underwater. (At this point I thought to myself that the spirit of this "Frederick Cooper" guy that I was getting baptized for must be cringing as he watched this. I mean, his eternal fate was literally depending on this and although I was his "hero" I wasn't exactly acting very brave and "heroic" as I tried to save him.)
"Brother Smith" then made a 5th attempt to baptize me but this time he was so frustrated that after saying the prayer he very forcefully pushed me underwater and held me down while I kicked and screamed underwater, and when he brought me back up I had water in my nose, in my eyes, in my ears and in my mouth and I was coughing up water so bad that I accidentally threw up the peanut butter sandwiches and grape juice that I had on the ride to the temple into the water which resulted in them having to cancel the rest of my baptisms (as well as all of the other baptisms that were scheduled to be performed that day) so that they could drain, clean, and refill the big baptismal font.
I felt so terrible about what I did and I imagined that all those spirits that showed up thinking that they were going to be saved must be really upset at me right now and I was just grateful that because they were spirits I wasn't able to actually see or hear them.
When I went back into the changing room to dry off I felt so ashamed of what I had done that I knew that I could never show my face at church again, and I felt so "unworthy" of even being in the holy temple that I realized that I also wasn't worthy of being a missionary for the church. And for the first time in my life I wasn't scared about the thought of there being no God. In fact, it would have been a relief to know that religion was all made up and that I didn't really just prevent a bunch of dead people from being saved, and that their spirits weren't going to haunt me for ruining their chance to go to Heaven.
When it was time to leave the temple me and the other young boys were sitting in the lobby of the temple as "Brother Smith" was filling out some paper work at the front desk before we could leave, and I felt so depressed that I couldn't imagine ever being able to smile again, but then all of a sudden a bunch of temple workers started running into a bathroom across the hall. One of the toilets was overflowing and the water was starting to flow into the hallway, and at one point one of the other young boys who was sitting next to me looked at the bathroom that was overflowing and then looked at me and jokingly whispered
"Holy Shit" which made me burst out laughing so hard that all of the anxiety and stress that I was feeling completely went away.
I then had a life changing revelation in the temple where I realized that looking at religion as a source of comedy would be my salvation in life. I knew that without a sense of humor I would spend the rest of my life in fear that God didn't exist, or in fear that God did exist and was going to punish me for all of my imperfections by showing them to everyone on "Judgement Day". Or I would become an angry atheist and hate my parents for raising me religiously and hate the church so much that I would let my love for science and astronomy turn into a hateful mission to find evidence to prove that God doesn't exist and that anyone who still takes the Bible's story of creation literally is a fool. But with a sense of humor about it all I could actually find a lot of amusement from being raised in a really weird religion, and my passion for learning about the universe could be taken to a whole new level now that I didn't take the church seriously anymore and therefore no longer had the mental filters that would prevent my mind from being able to accept any evidence that didn't match the teachings of the church.
I wasn't scared... I wasn't angry... I was actually EXCITED that all of the big questions in life like "Who am I?", "Why am I here?", and "Does God exist?" were now all of a sudden completely unanswered questions to me that I could explore with limitless and unbound curiosity.
When I got back home from the temple I had a long talk with my parents and confessed to them that I no longer believed in the church and that I wouldn't be going on a mission when I turned 19. My Dad was really upset and my Mom was really sad at first, but they eventually forgave me and told me that they would love me no matter what. (But they begged me to please never let my grandparents find out that I left the church and I agreed to pretend to still be going to church whenever we visited them.)
I'm not a racist but..................... a lot of my family members are (especially my older Mormon relatives) and I think that this is mostly due to the fact that the Mormon church used to teach that black people were the descendants of Cain and my older relatives that grew up being taught that still have this belief deeply rooted in their minds. (Like they say, "No one is born racist." and my grandparents would always say that their views of black people were "Biblical".)
Fortunately my parents didn't "hate" black people, (although it was painfully obvious at times that they were kind of scared of black people) and there were no black people where I grew up in the country so the only time I ever saw black people in real life during my childhood was ironically when me and my parents would visit my racist grandparents who lived 4 hours away from us in the big city where the population was roughly half white / half black.
And one day when I was 20 years old me and my Dad were driving to visit my grandparents and we had to stop at a gas station in the city and while we were at the pump there was a very charismatic old black man who was singing and washing a car about 10 feet away from us and at one point he stopped singing and greeted us by saying, "How are you gentlemen doing today?" and my dad said, "Oh very good! And how are you on this fine Wednesday morning?" and the man looked at the line of cars he had to wash, shock his head, and jokingly said, "Same SHIT different day!" and I was so shocked that he said the word "SHIT" in front of my Dad and was so unprepared for it that I actually ducked as if he had just thrown something at me and I yelled, "Whoa!" The old man then looked at me with a confused grin and said, "What the HELL?" I then panicked and said "Dad, I really have to use the bathroom." and I took off running towards the gas station bathroom as fast as I could...
(I didn't really have to use the bathroom, I was just so scared that the man was going to keep cursing or that my dad would confront him about his language in a very Mormon way by asking him to please refrain from using the profanities and to please use words like "Stuff", "Doo Doo", or "Number 2" instead so I just wanted to get away from them.)
And as I ran across the gas station parking lot I was so focused on running away from them that I didn't bother to look where I was going and I suddenly heard my Dad shout to me, "Lee, look out!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" so I stopped and turned to my left and saw a car coming right at me! I put my hands in front of me and screamed as the car came to a screeching stop just in the nick of time. (Although my hands actually slapped the hood of the car kind of hard.) The driver then rolled down the window and yelled, "WHAT THE FUCK KID?" so I cringed and immediately looked over at my Dad and saw that he was running over to me so I took off running for the bathroom again out of fear that I was about to hear a lot more vulgar language in front of my Dad. And when I got to the bathroom (which was on the side of the gas station) and locked myself inside I could hear the angry driver yelling at my Dad because I had ran out in front of his car and I "swear" that the man was using more swear words than non-swear words, so I stayed in the bathroom until I was sure the man was gone.
When I finally came out of the bathroom I felt so uncomfortable about the language that me and my Dad got exposed to that I got in the back seat of the car and told my Dad that I was really tired and pretended to lay down and go to sleep just to avoid any awkward discussions he might try to have with me about the language that people were using. But when he started the car and was about to leave the old man who was washing cars was kind of concerned about me so he walked over to our car and tapped on my Dad's windshield. My Dad rolled down the window (about an inch) and the man asked him if I was OK.
I pretended to be asleep but the man walked over to the back seat window and knocked on it so I opened my eyes and looked at him with a deer in the headlights stare and he said, "Hey young man, I just wanted to tell you that you really have to be careful and look both ways before you cross the street. That man almost ran over your ASS!" I cringed and looked at my Dad in horror because I couldn't let my Dad know that I knew what the word "ASS" meant after him and my Mom had spent so many years doing everything they could to make sure that I never heard words like that, so I pretended to still be innocent and not know what it meant by nervously saying to the old man, "He almost ran over my WHAT???" and the man said, "Your ASS son!" I said he almost ran over your ASS!" so I looked at my Dad in horror again and then I put my head down and said, "Oh, well, I don't know what that word means." and the man said, "Are you serious???" and then he looked at my Dad and said, "Hey my man, you better have a talk with your boy if he don't know what "ASS" means yet." and my Dad got
scared and sped away and I pretended to go back to sleep.
When we got to my Grandma's house my Grandma asked us, "So how was the trip over here?" and my Dad told her about how a man almost hit me with his car when we were at the gas station and right away my Grandma looked at me and asked, "Was it a black guy?" I said, "Yes" and then she asked my Dad, "Well did you call the police?" (as if she thought that he had tried to hit me with his car on purpose) so I tried to explain to my Grandma that it was actually my fault because I was running across the gas station parking lot without looking where I was going and the only reason he didn't hit me was because he slammed on the breaks, but my Grandma was convinced that he was trying to hit me with his car on purpose and when we had dinner that evening she said the prayer and actually thanked God for causing the black man's car to stop before he could hit me!
We spent the night at my Grandma's house and the next day we went to the retirement home to visit my Grandpa. When we got there my Grandpa was in a room full of other elderly people and they were all watching TV. There was a weather man on the TV giving the local weather forecast and it just so happened that he was black so my grandma got mad and called over a nurse asking her, "What channel do you have this TV on?" and the nurse said, "It's the "Weather Channel". and my grandma pointed at the black weather man and said, "Well he belongs on "B.E.T." ("Black Entertainment Television") not on one of the regular channels!" I cringed because a few of the other old people in the room were black and my grandma simply didn't care.
We then helped my Grandpa to the car so we could all go to a restaurant together and when we pulled into the restaurant parking lot we drove up to the handicapped parking area but there was already a car in the handicapped spot and it didn't have a handicapped parking permit hanging from the rear view mirror so my grandma got mad and said, "Some black guy parked in the handicapped spot illegally!" (Of course she didn't actually know who the car belonged to, but it didn't matter, in her mind she was convinced that it must be a black guy that did it.)
When we went inside and sat down at a table a waiter came out to take our order and it was a black guy so I was really nervous that my Grandma was going to end up saying something racist in front of him, but luckily when he asked her what she would like to order she managed to tell him what she wanted without saying anything rude or offensive, but then the waiter turned to my Grandpa (who can be even worse than my Grandma about saying racist things since he has "Alzheimer's" and often believes that he is a kid again back in the pre-civil rights era when it was considered socially acceptable to say things that nowadays would be considered highly offensive.) And when the waiter asked him what he would like to order my Grandpa completely ignored his question and instead just started telling everyone at the table about how his parents recently got him a big black dog and that the dog's fur was so black that they named the dog "N*****". I put my head down in shame and my body slowly sank down the chair until I was under the table, and while I was hiding under the table my grandpa continued to say racially derogatory things in front of the waiter that I would rather not repeat and it made me realize that not only did I not
want to end up with my grandparent's health problems, but I also didn't want to end up with their bigotry.
When I finally moved out on my own at age 25 I had to stay at a hotel for a short time until I could officially move into my first apartment and the hotel that I stayed at had cable television with over 100 channels instead of just 1 "family friendly" channel like I had growing up! I was so excited about finally getting to watch regular television but when I turned on the TV I was completely shocked by what I saw. The sexuality and vulgar language was so over the top that I couldn't watch anything without imagining how awkward it would be to watch it with my parents. (Even though my parents weren't there I kept imagining that my mom was sitting to my left and my dad was sitting to my right just like when we would watch TV together as a family when I was a kid and it totally creeped me out!)
And what was equally disturbing to me was the thought that other families out there actually would watch this kind of television together and not feel awkward about it. (Sometimes when a movie was about to start there would be a warning saying that the following film contained strong language and sexual content and should not be viewed by children unless it is with parental supervision, which made me wonder how on Earth a child could watch a movie that is filled with vulgar language or that has a sex scene in it with their parents and not be traumatized for life!)
I couldn't enjoy anything on regular TV, I would just cringe at the thought of watching it with my parents so after a few days of "channel surfing" I turned the TV off and have been too afraid to turn on a TV ever since.
I didn't start puberty until several years later than normal. (I didn't start growing facial hair until I was 23 and even to this day my voice is still kind of high and prepubescent sounding.) I'm not sure if my upbringing somehow stunted my growth and caused me to become a "Late Bloomer" but the fact that people would always tell me that I still looked like a kid even though I was an adult made me think that something was wrong with me, and when I actually started to go through puberty and was suddenly growing hair in a certain unmentionable area of my body I was convinced that something was wrong with me due to the incredibly limited (and "limiting") sexual education that I received as a child...
My parents NEVER talked to me about sex. Not even once. And because they had made it such a "taboo" subject in our household I was way too uncomfortable to ever ask them about it, and during my late teenage years I started spending all my free time alone in my room and purposely avoided talking to my parents as much as possible. (Not because I was mad at them, but because I was worried that it was only a matter of time until they decided to finally have a talk with me about "The Birds And The Bees" and I was dreading that talk so much that I went into hiding from it for a few years that my parents referred to as my "rebellious years".)
When I was at school I would sometimes overhear the other boys talk about sex, but it was usually nothing more than them just bragging about how big their "you know what" was (Some of them would even boast that it was as long as their arm!) and because I had never seen another naked man before and because I was so naive I believed them and I thought that there was no point in me ever trying to get a girlfriend because once we got married and had our wedding night she would laugh at how small I was compared to other guys and would not only divorce me over it but would also go and tell everyone about it.
When I was at church there were times in "Priesthood Meeting" (which was a class for teenage boys taught by "Brother Smith") when "Brother Smith" would talk to us about sex , but it was usually just him talking about how bad and immoral it was and he would warn us a lot about things like premarital sex, pornography and masturbation... (Especially masturbation!) He would tell us that sex was intended for procreation only and that if you masturbate you are "toying with the tools of God" and committing a sin just as serious as murder. He also said that doing it was a homosexual act because when you do it you
are technically having sex with yourself and if you are a man that means that you are technically having sex with a man which means that you would have to be gay. He would also give us creepy tips to avoid this sin such as... "Never admire yourself in the mirror when you are naked." and "When you go to sleep at night wear multiple layers of clothing so that it will be too troublesome to do it if the devil is tempting you at night." (This really messed with my head as a young boy and I was too afraid to even scratch an itch if it was on or near certain body parts.)
I even thought that my mysterious hair growth might be an STD even though I was a virgin. After all, my grandparents used to say that you could get A.I.D.S just from shaking hands with certain races of people and there were also a lot of mosquitoes where I lived and one day I showed up at school with a bunch of mosquito bites on my arms and a kid told me that it was because mosquitoes really liked "virgin blood" so I thought that by being a virgin I was attracting mosquitoes to myself and that I could have gotten a disease that way. And a small part of me worried that maybe God was real after all and that he was
punishing me for leaving the church and for making fun of it by causing me to grow hair in a place that would cause me to be too embarrassed to ever have sex. (Ensuring that I would never be able to bring any heathen non-religious kids into the world.)
And when I turned 25 and moved out on my own I saved up my money so I could buy a computer and the first thing I did
with it was go on-line to do some research to try to finally figure out after all these years what was wrong with my body and
within 2 minutes of having internet access I was relieved to discover that I didn't have anything wrong with me at all and that I
actually had a normal body. I was so happy that I didn't have a disease, but unfortunately my computer got a virus due to me
visiting the types of websites that I had to go to in order to have something to compare myself to and it stopped working after
only an hour of using it.
I had an uncle that fixed computers but I was too afraid to let him look it because I imagined that he would be able to view my browsing history and would see that I was looking at pictures of naked men and think that I was gay. (If he told my parents about it they would be heart broken and if he told my grandparents about it their hearts might literally stop working!) I was also way too uncomfortable to have a professional repair man that I didn't know come over and look at my computer so I ended up just throwing the computer away, and before I threw it away I soaked it in my bathtub overnight to make sure that it would never work again, that way my neighbors wouldn't find out what I was looking at and I wouldn't have people standing in my front lawn with signs saying things like...
"You're Going To Hell!" "Being Gay Is Not Ok!", "God Created Adam & Eve Not Adam & Steve!", "God Hates Fags!" and "Get Out Of Are Neighborhood!".
And as I put the new computer outside on "Trash Day" I was feeling really upset about all the money that I had spent on it and I suddenly thought to myself, "Why does everyone have to be so "homophobic"?" I didn't get it. Why should I feel so afraid about people thinking that I'm gay and why should anyone that actually is gay have to live in this kind of secrecy every day of their life? And from then on any time I would hear someone around me saying hateful things about gay people I would speak up about it by telling them that there was nothing wrong with being gay and asking them why they can't just "live and let live".
Of course, standing up for gay people would usually result in homophobic people asking me, "What are you gay or something?" but the fact is that I would get asked "What are you gay or something?" by people simply because I didn't eat meat or because I didn't watch football, or even because I did yoga so I realized that "homophobia" was just another example of people fearing and even demonizing something just because they don't understand it. (Just like when "Brother Smith" erased my evolution chart.)
When I eventually got another computer I did a Google search one day for "Mormons" out of curiosity and then I got really curious and did a search for "Making Fun Of Mormons" just to see if anything would come up and I found a video clip of a stand-up comedian named "Bill Maher" making fun of the Mormon religion.
He started the video by saying that ALL religions were weird but Mormons took weirdness to a whole new level. He said that Mormons believe in "Magical Underwear" and "Baptism For The Dead", which made everyone in the audience start laughing and made me as an "Ex-Mormon" want to laugh and want to cringe at the same time.
But then he said that Mormons believe that God lives on the planet "Kolob", which totally confused me because I had went to the Mormon church for 16 years and didn't remember ever hearing anything like that before. (And because I was such a "space fanatic" I definitely would have remembered something like that.) He then went on to say a lot of other things about the church that I had never heard of before and I started to think that he must be making stuff up just to make the church look bad, so it inspired me to do some research on the Mormon church and I found out that there were things about the church that were so shameful and so "intelligence insulting" that even the most devout Mormons are too embarrassed to talk about them...
"THE EMBARRASSING HISTORY OF THE MORMON CHURCH"
For years after I stopped going to church and no longer believed in it I would still kind of defend it by saying things like, "The church brings people together and creates unity.", "The church provides people with a "moral compass" to help guide them through life.", and of course, "Mormons are nice." but the more I learned about the history of the church the less I could continue to defend it...
BLACKS - The Mormon church used to teach that black skin was a curse that God had put on the wicked and inferior race, and "race mixing" was declared by the Mormon profit "Brigham Young" to be a sin that should result in the death penalty. (And my grandparents even believed that black people who made it to Heaven would be slaves in Heaven!)
As society was becoming more racially tolerant the church made attempts to be seen as more accepting of black people but in many cases this backfired and just made the church look even more racists. (In an interview with "Look Magazine" the Mormon profit "Joseph Smith Jr." tried to let readers know that black people were welcome to join the Mormon church by saying, "Darkies are wonderful people." and the church even went as far as to suggest that although black people were cursed by God and were unworthy of many of the rights and privileges that white people were, if a black person becomes a member of the Mormon church and follows the teachings diligently God will one day take away their dark skin curse and make them "white and delightsome" looking like the righteous.)
And then finally during the civil rights movement protesters where showing up at Mormon churches and temples to criticize the church for their racial discrimination and white supremacy and news crews were also showing up to film the protests. The church was clearly in big trouble and the Mormon profit at the time "Spencer W. Kimbal" suddenly made a public announcement that he had just received a revelation from God that black people were no longer cursed and were equals now.
GAYS - I can tell you that back when I went to the Mormon church being gay was considered one of the worst "sins" that you could possibly commit. (My grandparents would even blame major floods, tornadoes, and earthquakes on gay people!) And to make matters worse the church believed that being gay was a lifestyle choice and that anyone who was gay could simply make the choice to be straight if they wanted to but choose instead to live in sin.
In more recent years the church has openly admitted that being gay isn't really a choice and that if you are attracted to the same sex you can't really control that. However, the church also says that even if you are gay you still have full control over whether or not you decide to act on your desires and have gay sex. (Which is still a major sin according to the church.) So if you are gay you can technically become a member of the church but you must either marry someone from the opposite sex and have straight sex or remain celibate and have no sex at all in order to avoid sin.
The Mormon church eventually started treating black people as equals and I predict that the church will eventually start treating gay people as equals as well and that they will let gay couples get married in their temples, but I also predict that this won't happen for a very very very long time and that in the mean time the church will continue to try to make gay people feel ashamed about their sexuality and will urge straight church members to fight against the legalization of gay marriage, so it would be hard for me to view the church as a "moral compass" when they have been (and in many cases still are) such an opposing force to some of the most important ethical changes of our time.
WOMEN - The Mormon church has put together the largest genealogy database in the world. (It is used primarily to find the names of people who died without being baptized so they can be saved in "Baptism For The Dead" ceremonies.) And when my dad used this database to trace back our family tree several generations a really interesting pattern emerged...
- The number of kids my father had... 1
- The number of kids my grandfather had... 6
- The number of kids my great grandfather had... 14
- The number of kids my great great grandfather had... 29
- The number of kids my great great great grandfather had... 47
The reason that some of my grandfathers in the past had so many kids was because the Mormon church used to practice "polygamy" and it was common for men in the Mormon church to have several wives. (It was also believed that Mormon men who practiced polygamy would also have multiple wives in Heaven and would even become Gods in the afterlife with their own planets that would be inhabited by the countless spirit children that they would create by having sex for eternity with their many wives in Heaven.)
Who were the sexual objects in this fantasy? Women. And how did women feel about the idea of having to share their husband with multiple wives and having to remain constantly pregnant not only in their fertile years of life but also for eternity in the afterlife? They went along with it because they were manipulated into believing that they should feel blessed to have a Mormon husband (even if they had to share him with other women) because being married to a Mormon man was believed to be the only way that a woman could enter the highest level of Heaven and become a "Goddess".
(It is important to note that some Mormon men would even tell their wives that God had personally commanded them to marry multiple women and that they tried to tell God that they didn't want to have more than one wife but God became really angry at their unwillingness to obey him and said that if they didn't marry multiple women he would unleash his wrath upon them.)
The Mormon church is (obviously) completely run by men (Women can not have the priesthood, they can not baptize people or heal the sick, and they can not become profits of the church who speak to and for God.) and it has traditionally been taught that a woman's place is in the home where her job is to raise babies, "abide by the righteous counsel of her husband" and take care of the more mundane tasks such as cooking and cleaning so that the man can focus on doing "God's Work".
Polygamy was against the law when the church was practicing it and eventually the law caught up with them and the government was threatening to confiscate the Mormon temples if they didn't stop practicing it, so the church was forced to put a swift ban on polygamy and announced that anyone that had more than one wife would be excommunicated from the church. But men are still in full control of the church and women are still often lead to believe that the only leadership role that they are suited for is that of being a mother and that if they aren't making babies they aren't doing their "job".
NON-MORMONS - The Mormon religion was started by Joseph Smith who claims that when he was a young man he prayed to the Lord asking him which religion he should join (seeing as how there were so many to choose from) and the Lord told him that he should join none of the churches because they were all false and they were all "abominations" in the eyes of the Lord, and that he should instead start the "Mormon Church" and declare it to be "The One And Only True Church".
In more recent years the church has tried to be seen as more respectful towards people of other religions by saying that many of the other religions in the world contain "some" elements of truth in them and that Non-Mormons who live a good life will go to heaven too. But what a lot of people don't realize is that Mormons also believe that there are actually 3 different Heavens (A "Good" Heaven, a "Better Heaven" and a "Best" Heaven) and one of the requirements for making it to the best heaven of all (where God lives) is being married in the Mormon temple which of course only Mormons can do, which means that deep
down Mormons believe that only they will be in the main Heaven and everyone else that makes it to Heaven will be in one of the separate and lesser Heavens where they will forever be second and third class angels.
When I first got into yoga I read a wonderful quote from "Yogi Bhajan" that said, "If you can't see the God in all you can't see the God at all." I loved this quote but when I gave my grandparents a Christmas card with this quote written inside the card it was the only year that my grandparents didn't put my Christmas card on their refrigerator. They obviously didn't like the quote and I think this is because they were really into the church and the church is ultimately more about "division" than "unity". (Even in Heaven they believe there will be divisions!) Science on the other hand seems to suggest that the "Big Bang" will eventually go into reverse and EVERYONE and EVERYTHING that exists will ultimately come together and become "one" again.)
The church can certainly provide a coming together of like-minded people (much like you can experience at a music concert) and it can feel powerful, but in order for the church to inspire real "Unity" in the world they would first need to put a stop to the division that their teachings inspire.
ANIMALS - The God that I was taught to believe in was a human (A white, male, and homophobic human to be more specific.) and it is said that he created the human race in his own image and that he created all of the other life on Earth to serve us. This belief is of course very appealing to our egos, but I noticed that any time I would see a picture of a child petting an animal that is commonly killed for food (like a cow) or a picture of a friendship between 2 two totally different types of animals (like a deer and a family of ducks) I would get such a strong feeling of peace in my heart that I could no longer accept the idea that animals don't have souls and that the only reason they are here is to serve us.
When I first told my parents that I wanted to stop eating meat because I didn't want to harm animals my Dad freaked out about it and said that we shouldn't be vegetarians because the Bible makes it clear that God put animals here for us to eat. But from what I remember about the Bible, in the story of "The Garden Of Eden" Adam and Eve lived only off of the fruits and herbs that grew in the garden and they were friends with the animals. (And the word most commonly used by people to describe "The Garden Of Eden" is "Paradise".) And in the prophecy of "The Second Coming" it says that there will be "Peace On Earth" and that there will be no more death, sorrow, or pain. (And it uses the image of a lion laying with a lamb to illustrate just how peaceful it will be.) So if according to the Bible the most peaceful times on Earth (in both the past and in the future) just happen to be times when we are living in peaceful harmony with the animals shouldn't we strive to be kind to animals now if we genuinely want more peace in the present moment?
I used to worry that without a religion of some kind our lives would be meaningless. After all, when you look at the breathtaking images from the Hubble telescope it is hard not to think about just how small and insignificant the Earth is in comparison to the unthinkable immensity of the universe, but the truth is that every atom that exists is an essential ingredient in the universe ("All Matter Matters") and all life is special, but since we are all special there is no reason to call ourselves special and our egos don't like this because it wants desperately to be recognized as special so the church fulfills this desire perfectly by telling it's followers that more than 99.9% of the species on Earth aren't special and that more than 99.9% of the universe isn't special either and that only a very small group of us are the "special ones" that will one day get to live with God in a very "special place".
And despite the long history of discrimination in the church there is a stereotype that Mormons are the nice ones in the religious community, and I want to take the time to say that based on my own personal experience in the church I would say that many Mormons actually are very nice people, however, the church it's self could be a lot nicer by eliminating ALL remaining forms of discrimination from their teachings. That might sound like a really big task that would take a very long time to achieve, but the truth is that it could all happen overnight if only the current Mormon profit would receive a revelation from God that ALL life should be treated with kindness from now on regardless of race, gender, sexuality, religion or species. And as an individual that no longer looked to the church for advice on how to treat others I realized that I didn't have to wait for that revelation to start treating others better.
When I was 30 year old I had still never had a girlfriend before and everyone around me (including mosquitoes) knew that I was a virgin just by looking at me. (Any time I would start a new job somewhere within a week of working there someone would come up to me and ask me if I was still a virgin. I would never give a direct answer to this question and would usually just respond by saying something like, "I would rather not discuss my personal love life at work." which I learned would only make it all the more obvious and funny to people that I was a virgin.)
I had never been kissed or held hands with a girl and because of the serious lack of "Human Touch" in my life I became almost completely unable to accept any kind of human touch from people (such as hugs, handshakes, and pats on the back) without getting all jumpy and nervous about it and this problem was getting worse and worse the longer I stayed single.
I dreamed of someday meeting a girl but I felt like it would be impossible for someone like me since I suffered from "Social Anxiety Disorder" and spent all my free time alone. (And even if a nice girl just magically showed up at my house out of nowhere and knocked on my door I would probably be way too afraid to open the door and would just pretend that I wasn't home anyways.) So I came to the conclusion that the only way a person like me could ever have any kind of an experience with a woman would be if I paid for it by hiring the services of a prostitute.
I went on-line and found an "escort service" in my area and while browsing though it I found a picture of a red headed female escort who was stunningly beautiful and I instantly felt like she would be perfect. It said that she charged $800 an hour for her services (which I honestly felt would be a small price to pay to finally have this experience that everyone talked so much about, and to have it with someone who was so good looking) so I decided to go for it!
I wrote down her phone number and spent the next few days writing a "script" for when I called her. I made up a fake name, a fake job, and fake hobbies that I thought would impress her, and because people would always tell me that they didn't believe that I was 30 and that I barely looked 18 I decided that I would tell her that I was only 18 years old. (That way when we got together and it was obvious to her that I had never done anything like this before it would be at least a little bit less laughable to her.)
I then decided to call her so I got the script ready and dialed her number. The phone rang 4 times and then she answered by saying, "Hello". I was so intimidated by the sound of her voice that I almost hung up the phone, but I managed to take a deep breath and in the most masculine voice that I conjure up I said, "Hello" back to her... There was then an awkward silence for several seconds and then she said, "Are you calling to make an appointment?" I then looked down at the script and panicked because even though I had spent a few days writing out a very detailed script of all the things that me and her could talk about over the phone I actually hadn't thought about her asking me something like that so I had no pre-written response and was going to have to answer this question completely off the top of my head so I got really nervous and started stuttering and said..."Oh.... Ugh... Well...Ha Ha...I Ugh...." and she ended up just hanging up the phone.
"I knew it wouldn't work" I thought to myself, and I started to walk away when the phone suddenly rang. (Keep in mind that this was back when "Caller I.D." was very new and almost nobody had it yet so it didn't even cross my mind that it could be her.) "That's strange" I thought to myself, "Who could be calling me?" so I picked up the phone and said, "Hello" in my real (and feminine sounding) voice and it was the prostitute again but because I answered with my real voice she thought that I was a woman this time (and most likely the girlfriend or the wife of the nervous man who had just tried to call her) so she got
nervous and said, "Oh... I'm sorry I must have the wrong number." and quickly hung up. I then tried to call her back several times but she wouldn't answer because she probably didn't want to have to deal with an angry and jealous woman yelling at her and saying, "Who are you and why were you calling my man's number?" so I hung up the phone, I threw away the script, and I gave up on meeting her. But then the phone rang again the following day and I thought it might be her so I answered in my masculine voice... It was her and she said, "Hey, were you trying to call me yesterday?" and because I no longer had the
script in front of me and because I also felt really bad that she might think I had a girlfriend or wife that was mad at her I decided to just tell her the truth...
I confessed to her that I had tried to call her the day before but I was nervous because I was a virgin and was really shy. She then became very sympathetic with me and said that there was nothing wrong with that and that she was actually one of the shyest kids back when she was in school and even though she is in the "Adult Entertainment Industry" now she is still very shy outside of her job and doesn't like going out and partying with people. When she said that I suddenly felt a calm come over me and I sensed that maybe she would understand me. We talked for a while and I started to really loosen up and felt really
excited that this was actually going to happen!
She then asked me where I lived so I told her the apartment complex that I was living at and she said, "Oh OK, I know exactly where that's at and I'm actually not that far from you at all so I guess I could be there in half an hour if you'd like...
"HALF AN HOUR???" I shouted in shock...
I immediately looked around me and saw a million reasons that there was no way that I was going to be ready to have her come over to my place in only half an hour. (I mean, I had to clean my apartment, I had to figure out what I was going to wear, I needed a hair cut, etc, etc, etc...) So I apologized and told her that half an hour was a little too soon for me to be ready to finally have this experience for the first time so she said, "Oh..... Ok, well, I could come over later this afternoon if you'd like." (That didn't sound any more realistic to me.) So I told her that later this afternoon would still be way too soon for me to be ready, and I asked her if perhaps we could plan for meeting a few weeks in advance... There was then a long pause of silence, and then she started to laugh and said, "It sounds like you're never going to be ready for something like this." I wasn't sure what to say so I said nothing and then she said, "I'll tell you what, you have my number, so why don't you just call me back whenever you do feel ready OK Babe?" I said, "OK" and she hung up. I then put the phone down and started dancing! I felt lighter than air... "She called me "Babe", I thought to myself, and I am going to meet her... "Someday"
whenever I feel ready, which shouldn't be long now!
I then suddenly had an intense craving for guacamole and because I felt such a strong boost of confidence after having a conversation with a woman for the first time I got my keys, went outside, and walked to the grocery store (in broad daylight) so I could buy the ingredients for it. When I walked up to the store the 2 security guards at the front door who were only used to seeing me come in late at night looked shocked to see me show up in the day time, and even more shocked when I actually smiled and said "Hello" to them, and as I walked past them I overheard one of them say to the other, "I guess he's not a vampire after all."
I then walked in the store and was almost blinded by how bright everything was when there was natural sunlight coming through the windows in addition to the florescent lighting.
An older woman that worked at the store greeted me as I walked in by saying to me in a very casual "small talk" kind of way, "Hello, how are you today?" and I enthusiastically shouted, "SENSATIONAL!!!" which caused her to almost fall over because she was fully expecting me to just respond with a casual, "Oh I'm good. How are you?"
I then walked over to the produce area and a worker was in the middle of building a display of avocados (which would normally mean no avocados for me because I don't want to "mess up" the worker's display and get in his way) but I walked right over and got 10 avocados like it was nothing.
The limes that they had didn't look very good so I decided that I would buy lime juice in a bottle instead, but I wasn't sure what aisle it was in (which would normally mean having to walk all over the store trying to find it and just leaving without it if I couldn't find it on my own because asking an employee for help would be way too difficult for me, and even if an employee approached me wanting to know if I needed help I would just get nervous and quickly walk away from them like I was a shoplifter or something) but I walked right up to an employee and asked him what aisle the lime juice was in without any of the symptoms I would normally get from having to go up and speak to someone such as increased heart rate, blushing, stuttering, dizziness and a dry throat.
I even paid for everything by going through an actual human cashier instead of going through the "self check-out" machine like I normally would since I usually get really embarrassed if people can see what I'm buying and I really dread the invasive questions from cashiers like, "Oh are you making guacamole?" But this time was different. I felt "normal" for the first time and it was as if my "embarrassment" had went on vacation or something...
When I woke up the next morning I felt sick from all the guacamole I ate! The magical feeling was gone and my embarrassment was back in full force. I then realized that the reason I was so happy the day before was actually because I ended up not meeting the prostitute. (She was right about me. I simply wasn't ready for something like that and there's no telling what kind of embarrassing situation I would have found myself in if she had actually came over.) It then hit me that when I said that I wanted a girlfriend it wasn't really true. Yes, I was naturally attracted to women, but in order to actually meet a girl I would have to step so far out of my "comfort zone" that I would rather just stay single. I then remembered that there was a word for people who would rather stay single than be in a relationship and it was then that I realized that I wasn't really a "heterosexual", or a "homosexual" for that matter and that I was actually an "asexual" and once I finally accepted this my sex drive seemed to completely go away.
Some would find this to be a big problem but I actually found it to be quite liberating. Because I was free of sexual thoughts and wasn't thinking about sex every 6 seconds like the average person does, combined with the fact that I didn't have a TV and wasn't watching TV for 6 hours a day like the average person does I had the time and focus to actually read books and since I was a "health nut" and was interested in "unity" I immersed myself in books about health and peace.
The more I learned about the devastating effects that our diets and lifestyles were having not only us but on the rest of the world, and the more I learned about the urgent need for more peace in the world the more that I wanted to do something about it. I wanted to inspire people to get healthy and I wanted to be a voice for the voiceless, and it got to the point where I wanted to help make a difference in the world so badly that I transcended my shyness enough to put together a website and a YouTube channel where I tried to inspire people to be healthy and kind. Working on these projects was an amazing experience for me and it was so exciting to finally find a way that I could express myself publicly! I had never been in love with someone before but the love that I felt while working on these projects was so strong that I had no doubt that I was doing what I was meant to do. I may not have gone on a mission for the church but I was definitely on a mission and it was a mission that I was proud to be on.
It then occurred to me that although my sex drive was no longer there it didn't really "disappear" but rather it transformed into something different. (The creative energy that in the past was mostly being used to keep me constantly ready and eager to mate with someone so that I could pass on my genes and keep life going was now being used to create projects designed to help inspire positive changes in the world that would help to keep life on Earth going.)
For the first 6 months after I started putting my thoughts, images, and videos on-line I didn't get any feedback about it from anyone. Everyday I would get on-line hoping that I would get an e-mail from someone and would get to connect with people "virtually", but every day my inbox would be empty and I wondered if anyone was even finding what I was sharing.
I then decided to film some yoga videos for my YouTube channel with the intention of inspiring people to get into yoga (although I admit that when I filmed these yoga videos my ego kind of got carried away and I wanted to "show off" how flexible I was and make people say "WOW" and think that I was incredible so I ended up mostly doing really advanced yoga postures that require a lot of physical flexibility to pull off) and shortly after I posted my yoga videos I went to my inbox and found a new messages entitled "Yoga Question". I was so excited to read it and below is the e-mail in it's entirety...
Subject: Yoga Question
I watched your yoga video and all I can say is "WOW" You are incredible! I can't believe how flexible you are! I have a yoga question for you, but before I get into that I first want to thank you for making your web site. I stumbled onto it by accident a few months ago and although I'm still not 100% yet I have been eating fruit for breakfast every morning and have also been eating a lot of salads and a lot less meat and dairy and am feeling a lot better!
But the best thing of all is that my mom who I am taking care of due to her weight and disability has been drinking green smoothies like the ones I read about on your website every day and she has lost over 30 pounds in the past few months and yesterday for the first time in over a year she actually went on a short walk with me outside so from the bottom of my heart I want to thank you for doing what you do.
Oh, and yesterday I was cleaning my house and I found a big spider behind my washing machine. Normally I would have stomped on it with my shoe but after reading your article on being kind to insects I gently captured the spider with a cup and released it outside, so thanks to you an innocent spider was saved :)
So my question is...
CAN YOU SUCK YOUR OWN DICK?
I don't know if the person who wrote this e-mail was being serious or if the whole e-mail was all one big elaborate joke, but either way I was way too embarrassed to reply back to him, and either way it made me realize that although it was good that I was finally starting to overcoming my shyness it was important that I overcome my shyness with humility if I want people to focus on my message rather than on me the messenger. So I continued to devote my life to promoting health and kindness but I did it all without ever saying a word and I became a "Voiceless Voice For The Voiceless" and discovered that if you want to reach and inspire people you don't really need to be a good talker... You just need to be a good listener.
MORE EMBARRASSING STORIES