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5/24/16

Bath


This is a poem about post-partum depression.

Disclaimers: I've been feeling a deep need to write everything down, secure myself to the ground with lots of words as I process a pretty complicated period of my life.

I've been dealing with intense and sometimes debilitating post-partum depression since Marie was born. I don't feel it everyday. When I'm happy and making jokes and doing my job, it's real- I'm not pretending. I am happy. Even if I wanted to, I'm not capable of faking anything that well.

But when I find myself in some pretty dark spaces, that's real too. It's important for me to honor both. 

I also want it to be real. Part of PPD, for me, is not knowing if what I'm feeling is real. Writing about it gives it a place in my life. I wish it wasn't here, and I wish it was easier, but I'm working through it. I'm working with healthcare providers to find a solution. I'm working on finding a good therapist. I'm working on being honest with myself and others about what and who I can be during this time.

I'm also experiencing lots of joy, happiness, and gratitude. It's a bewildering time to be me, and I want it all written down.

This is a poem about life.

Bath

She cradles the baby in water, contorting her body- a mountain range creating a soft valley of skin,
 a scar forming a river bed.

The baby stops crying, and looks up, wide-eyed with surprise-

I wasn’t expecting this to work

And yet, there is calm.

The mother shifts, fingers forming a web- gently keeping the baby’s head above water.

She pretends this is the water-birth she envisioned in birthing classes. Meditating with other mothers, side-by-side on yoga mats, smugly convinced they controlled their own bodies.

She expected this to work.

But instead of a water birth, there was a c-section. And an asshole doctor who promised his coworkers that his wife would never give birth this way.

He expected her to work.

The second time, a second asshole doctor. He used forceps, promising her that this is okay for the baby, but it won’t be okay for you.

He knew she didn’t work.

Now she sits in the tub, broken in places doctors can’t see, holding her baby. Thinking about Andrea Yates and no longer smug.  This is motherhood:

Holding your child’s head above water-
protecting them from a madness
no one else sees. 






5/23/16

10 Thoughts Had While Marathon-Watching "The Path."

First, I don't binge-watch. I marathon. "Binge" implies a problem, "marathon" connotes endurance. I am dedicated, not lazy, OK PEOPLE??? Anyway. Here are my thoughts while watching "The Path" on Hulu instead of cleaning my house, grading papers, or caring for my children. HERE BE SO MANY SPOILERS I DO NOT EVEN CARE.


1. No one has said it out loud yet, but I suspect one of the "secret" tenets of Meyerism is a devotion to Kinfolk Magazine. All these home-cooked meals enjoyed on back porches with twinkly lights and (mostly) white people wearing wearing thick vintagey sweaters and carrying leather satchels through the woods. But seriously, the Kinfolk/Madewell/Patagonia game here is ON POINT. I would not be surprised if some hipsters try and make Meyerism happen in real life. (Annnd I will probably join.)

2. Alternative theory: It is always fall here. Always. Is this Stars Hollow? Were all the quirky characters on Gilmore Girls not really quirky and just really culty? That's why Rory was so eager to leave, and that's why Lorelei's parents freaked out when she left home- you would to if your teenage daughter went to join a freaky cult. (That I will join if leather boots are included with all the green smoothies. Because of course they drink green smoothies.)

3. Let's talk about junkie-addict Mary. I really like how hot she looks after surviving a hurricane. She looks like an extra from a Taylor Swift video, what with her perfectly tousled hair and cut- off shorts showing just a hint of bum cheek as she crawls around sexily looking for water. Yes, that's clearly what's happening here, she's looking for water. Everyone knows the best way to do that is by crawling around sexily. (Here she is taking a break to stand sexily.)

Image result for mary from the path

4. But damn, that coat she wears when she tries to leave the compound? GIRL, GO BACK, YOUR BANGS ARE PERFECT AND THAT COAT IS EVERYTHING. You want to go back to crawling around in booty shorts? No. Stay in the cult with all the beautifully tailored button-down shirts and stunning outerwear.

THAT COAT THO



5. How is everyone making these shrunken grandpa sweater vests look so chic? I am drinking their chambray kool-aid or their artisanal coffee, whatever they are offering. Even the green smoothie juice things.


6. Dude. So this cult is about a bunch of (mostly white) people who are irrationally devoted to an old white guy.  They want to educate the "ignorant systemites" and put an end to world-wide corruption and suffering. AS PART OF THEIR MISSION, THEY HELP SOME REFUGEES FROM HONDURAS.

Is this a television show or just a really long campaign ad for Bernie Sanders?

7. People who leave the cult are called "Deniers." See above comment.

8. There is a lot of cultural appropriation here with all the Peruvian/Latin American tie-ins. Because, again, white people.Despite having a "spiritual center" in Peru, no Peruvians apparently are worthy of the light, just worthy of providing beautiful embroidered clothes and "excellent marijuana." I'm not shitting you, that's a line from the show.



All I'm saying is that as an intersectional feminist, I think people of color should have a chance to be hoodwinked by a nonsense religion too. (I'm joking, no one should be hoodwinked.)

9. There is an awful lot of time dedicated to showing people showering in this show. I'm pretty sure it is symbolic (at one point, someone is LITERALLY WASHING THE BLOOD OFF THEIR HANDS) but mostly it is just boring. Mary showers. Ashley showers. Eddie showers. Cal showers. We get it. These are clean cultists.

10. So Heath Ledger is back from the dead, aging backwards and playing the role of Hawk in this series. So that's happening.

No. Seriously. Look.

Hawk:




Heath:




Hawk:

Image result for hawk from the path

Heath:

Image result for heath ledger 10 things i hate about you

It's fine. Everything is fine.


************************SOME SERIOUS THOUGHTS YOU CAN SKIP*****************


*Obviously, given my upbringing, a show about a man losing faith in a small and insular religion is painful to watch. No, I'm not directly comparing Mormonism to Meyerism (although both start with a dude receiving a vision and trying to create an American Utopia and focus strongly on family and marriage  and do a lot of outreach for the poor and...oh, wait.) But I think the themes of faith and community and self are pretty universal.

*It broke my heart when Eddie said he didn't know what was "real" anymore, and so he decides to base reality based on "goodness." If he can find evidence of Meyerism doing "good," or at least more good than bad, he'll stay- because helping people change their lives is "real." When he pleads with another character to reassure him, he asks,"We're doing good, right? We're helping people, right?"

* I think that's the basis of most human decisions- to stay in your faith, or your job, even a marriage or friendship. We're doing good right? Is good more important than "true?" How much ambiguity is okay? The show does such a great job showing the complexities of Eddie's doubt. Meyerism does do a lot of good. They are the first to respond with aid after a natural disaster, they support amnesty for refugees, and save a family from being deported by ICE. Wait? Are we talking about Meyerism or Mormonism? Oh yeah, the TV one. On the surface, people in the movement look happy. The corruption on the leadership level doesn't impact the day-to-day lives of the average member. I deal with this question regularly, and I don't have an answer.

*Seeing Eddie's wife Sarah reject him and her son when he admits he doesn't believe hurt too. It's clear that their breakdown happened because of differing priorities. For Sarah, it's Meyerism first, family second. For Eddie, it's family first, Meyerism second. He's willing to stay in Meyerism (to an extent) for Sarah, but she isn't willing to stay in their marriage without complete devotion to the movement. When Eddie tells Sarah, "I am the same person, okay? I love you, I love our family, I believe in the work that we do, but the rest is just f#$%ing fairy-tales," Sarah says, "You are talking about everything, everything in my very soul." Well, I've been there. Spouseman's been there. That's real.

*Sarah's in-laws. The father-in-law is desperate to help rehabilitate Eddie, but the mother-in-law says "he's gone" and that there is nothing they can do. FIL objects- "He's our son-in-law!" MIL: "Not any more." Eddie responds: "There has to be some room for f%$&ing doubt! You'll lose everyone." MIL: "Cowards. Conviction-less people." Or you know, patty-cake taffy-pullers.

*I sympathize with Sarah. She truly believes that Eddie and Hawk won't be with her forever in "The Garden" if they leave Meyerism. In her eyes, she's lost her family, and I understand why she's angry at Eddie for leaving her and taking her son away to die when "The Future" comes. Again, not to put to fine a point on Meyerism and another American-based faith beginning with an "M."


*A lot of people ask me how Spouseman and I navigate my departure from the church with his decision to continue believing. (Albeit non-traditionally.) In the end, despite our differences in belief, our priorities are the same- family first, belief second. We are still navigating what that LOOKS like, on a practical day-to-day basis, and what sacrifices are reasonable for each partner to make. But I'm grateful that the cornerstone of our marriage is the same, and grateful for the sacrifices Dan makes to help our marriage grow.

Anyway.







5/20/16

I wrote this: Ex Mormon Foundation Talk

I spoke at the Exmormon Foundation Conference back in October. I was thinking about my talk today, so I decided to put it here. Some of it may look familiar to people who read what I write regularly, but some of it is new. I wanted a record of a night I felt very scared, (I can hear my voice shaking throughout the audio of my talk, which you can listen to HERE) but also very brave.

I'm proud of who I am. I'm proud of who I am becoming.

“Dear Mormonism” Ex Mormon Foundation Talk 2015

Hello. My name is Stephanie Lauritzen. Now don’t anyone get up. Despite the fact that a very pregnant blonde woman with a Utah accent is standing behind a podium speaking to you while you eat dessert, this does not mean tonight is secretly a Relief Society meeting. Do not be alarmed. Here’s how you know this isn’t a clandestine church meeting:

No man is presiding over me during this meeting.

That’s it! The fact that I don’t need a (most likely) elderly white dude to be in charge of my talk is the number one indicator that you aren’t at an LDS church function! I hope I’ve eased any of your fears.
I’d like to start by reading to you excerpts from the letter I wrote to my Mormon heritage. It is apparently the piece that earned me an invitation here tonight.  I’ve written a great many things about Mormonism, including several riveting blog posts analyzing Mormon contestants on reality television, and I have no idea why those weren’t taken as seriously as this letter.

Dear Mormonism,
How are you? It’s been a while. The Internet tells me you are doing well, building new temples, writing fancy amicus briefs and trying to figure out what to do with your women. (Hint: Try priesthood.) Anyway, I know you are very busy, but I wanted to tell you thank you.
Thank you for raising me into this inactive misfit Mormon woman. Thank you for making me a feminist and an LGBT ally. Thank you for giving me the tools to raise an independent and kind daughter, thank you for giving me the eyes through which I see the world. I would be ungrateful not to recognize your role in who I am as a woman, a parent and a spouse. Thank you. 
When you taught me to believe that I am a child of God, filled with divine nature and individual worth, I believed you. I believed in my divinity enough that when I grew up, the confines of man-made patriarchy and traditional gender roles paled in comparison with what I knew. A child of God doesn’t need to hearken unto her husband or simply nurture while her husband provides. A child of God sees her worth not just in her uterus, but in her mind. A child of God understands internalized misogyny, and a child of God knows that short skirts don’t rape people, and that the women wearing them aren’t “walking pornography.” 
More importantly, you taught me to “love one another,” another song so familiar that I could never forget this new commandment, even when my days of singing in Sacrament Meeting were over. So I loved. I loved my way through 2008 and Prop. 8, and your stubborn devotion to “The Proclamation to the Family.”
I loved even when my fellow church members told me that “when the prophet speaks, the thinking has been done.” Even when I lost friends, even when I lost my faith in this church—in you, Mormonism—I never stopped loving. Because you taught me that “whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it,” and when I lost my life as an active Mormon, I found myself as an ally, activist and a friend. And when more people find themselves, we save not just ourselves, but the “least of these,” especially the young LGBT people who may have otherwise been lost to suicide and hate crimes and dehumanizing legislation rooted in fear. 
Thank you, Mormonism, for teaching me about my pioneer ancestors, who faced an undue amount of persecution for believing differently from their neighbors and friends. Those guilt-inducing lessons on genealogy taught me that I have defiance and strength written into my DNA, because if my ancestors could leave their homes to chase a promised land, I can leave my home—your home, Mormonism—in search of a more egalitarian and loving Zion. 
Mormonism, I’ve spent my life listening to that still, small voice, hoping that I will be brave enough to listen to the promptings of the spirit, and to follow what it teaches me. I continue to listen, because you taught me that listening to that voice inside me will protect me from evil, especially that tricky sort of meanness that “calls evil good and good evil.” I listen and I know that benevolent sexism, the type that would put me on a pedestal and tell me I’m too pure to get my hands dirty with power, is wrong. I listen, and I know the cruelest evil is that which calls bigotry “religious liberty” and hurts others in the name of God. And when I begin to doubt my new faith, when the siren call of the community I lost and the comfort of fitting in seem inviting, and when I long for the approval of my peers, I do as Uchtdorf tells me, and I “doubt my doubts,” and then I “stop it.” I am a child of God, who loves one another, and listens to the spirit. 
Remember when you taught me about the Anti-Nephi-Lehies, the heroes of The Book of Mormon who made a promise with God never to go to war again and then buried their weapons? They preferred death over a broken promise, and they taught me about the value of sacrifice. I remember them because I too have buried my weapons; I buried my homophobia, my own self-taught brand of sexism and my fear. I buried them and I will not raise them again, even if it means I stand outside the doors of the temple the day my sister gets married. 
I expect you see me as a monster, a Frankenmormon, an unholy amalgamation of beliefs that contradict the perfect Mormon woman you envisioned. But I see a Daniel, who spent her upbringing in the lion’s den of orthodox Mormonism and came out stronger. You raised me to see miracles everywhere, Mormonism, and I do. I see miracles when a teenager fights against the Taliban for her right to an education. I see miracles when Mormons march in pride parades and women ask for a seat in the priesthood session. I see miracles, and I believe in a world that will be saved once more by a Messiah- this time the messiah of equality and fairness and love. This is the world I raise my daughter in, and I see it with wonder and faith. 
So thank you, Mormonism.
Thank you for giving me the tools I needed to leave you, and start a new life.
In many ways, I don’t particularly identify with the title of “ex-Mormon,” no more than I identify as an “ex-homophobe,” or an “ex-apologist for gender discrimination.” I respect the decision many of you made to identify as ex-Mormon. The beautiful thing about leaving the church is the freedom to choose your own identity. If ex-Mormon speaks to you, I honor that. I do tend to prefer the term Frankenmormon, but that hasn’t really taken off the way I hoped.

Maybe my reluctance to adopt the identify of “ex-Mormon” stems from all my baggage from my years within Mormonism itself, in which ex-Mormon was often used interchangeably with “anti-Mormon.” I don’t feel anti-Mormon, either.  I once compared Mormonism to an old boyfriend. Just because we didn’t work out doesn’t mean I want to spend the rest of my life identifying as anti-Steven or Ben’s ex-girlfriend.

But I do, especially as my faith transition has settled more permanently, feel distinctly that my former church is very much ex-Stephanie. That’s a convenient way of looking at things, right? Next time church members say something derogatory about feminism or LGBT allies, I can dismiss them airily and instruct people not to listen to them, as they are simply “anti-Stephanie.”  Now I don’t have to listen to any criticism of myself or my actions, because anyone who disagrees with me is simply against me. This logic seems to work within the church community. By the way, if you don’t like my talk tonight, you are a Stephpostate. Why don’t you just leave this dinner?

Ah, the Anti-Stephanies, they leave the woman, but they can’t leave the woman alone.

It’s a very human desire to want a formal place in a community. I assume that is why we are all here, regardless of how we identify ourselves in relation to Mormonism, we all chose to be here and align ourselves with fellow survivors. We came here wanting something, whether it was to learn new information about our past, or receive inspiration on how to proceed with our futures, or simply to spend a few hours not feeling so alone.

My decision to speak at tonight’s dinner reminded me of a passage from Chaim Potok’s Davita’s Harp. In the novel, a little girl named Davita is raised by parents who both abandoned the religious upbringings of their childhoods. In many ways, Davita feels lost in the world, and like all of us, seeks stability and community. One day, her Uncle Jacob tells her a story about a gray horse:
“There was a horse that lived in a narrow valley at the foot of a tall range of mountains. This was a young horse, a beautiful horse, gray in color, all gray, even its eyes and mane and hooves and tail were gray. The grayness had about it a special quality: it glowed with a warm, soft light…A young, strong, gray horse, shining as it galloped about during the day, shining as it stood asleep during the night. A very beautiful horse.”

“In the mountains along the valley lived a herd of black horses. These were powerful creatures who always went racing about in the gulleys and crevices and along the shoulders of the hills…They were entirely black… the black was a deep black, with no glow, no light, a flat, strong black, like a night without moon or stars. Sometimes it stormed in the hills and the gray horse would see the black horses running in the rain and outlined against the sky when lightning lashed. They were awesome seen like that, running in the lightning and the rain.”

“The little valley where the gray horse lived emptied into a broad sandy plain. Here lived another herd of horses that grazed peacefully in the oases that grew out of sand watered by underground streams. White was the color of these horses, a white that hurt the eyes. Every part of them was white-their eyes, manes, their tails, their hooves. Pure, clean, dazzling white. On dark nights their whiteness was seen for miles, each horse a pulsing glow of light.”

At first, Davita’s Uncle Jacob tells Davita the story about the three types of horses, and lets her decide who she is in his imaginary universe.

I imagine if you are here at this dinner tonight, you are here in part because you are also gray horses, or once were.  

The thundering testimonies and absolutism of our fellow black horses may have awed you, but also frightened you with their power to hurt and to maim. Maybe you tried to fit in with the black horses, but failed and felt the sharp beating hooves on your shoulders when you couldn’t stay with the herd. How many gray horses are lost after refusing to comply with the dictates of the herd?

Perhaps you were once comforted by the purity of the white horses, with a clear and simple answer for everything, and with no desire to leave the oasis.  Despite the recent appointment of three new Caucasian apostles to church leadership I’ll avoid the temptation to make too many jokes about race. But maybe it was comforting to be surrounded by people who believed all the same things. How many of us once felt secure knowing that the “church was true,” and that no matter where we traveled we could find people like us in any local ward building?

But we were never black or white horses, and like the horse in Davita’s Harp, we knew we were different. Later, Davita’s uncle tells her the fate of the gray horse.

“As the years went by, [the gray horse] began to feel more and more disturbed by the thought of being forever between the light of the peaceful white horses, and the darkness of the powerful black horses. He did not understand why living that way should disturb him; but he knew that it did.
He was lonely. Perhaps that was the reason for his unhappiness. There is no feeling more terrible than loneliness, no feeling worse than the sensation of being locked inside your own heart. And so one day, he decided to leave his little valley and go off in search of other gray horses like himself.”

One of my biggest fears when I began my transition out of the church was my fear of loneliness. I knew what it felt like to be locked inside your own heart.  Anyone who endures the process of leaving the church recognizes the suffocating feeling of realizing Mormonism isn’t sustaining you anymore, but feeling trapped and betrayed by their own heart- unable to break free from the fear of isolation and ostracization that comes from leaving the faith tradition of your childhood.

 I worried I wouldn’t know how to rebuild my life or my identity without the structure or guidance of the LDS church. I worried that my inability to be a black or white horse represented some inherent personality flaw. So naturally, I decided to wear pants to church, and I’d tell other people to wear pants. We’d make a day of it! Solution!  Maybe if I found enough women like me, I could find the other gray horses and find a way to navigate a path through Mormonism without the terrible weight of loneliness breaking my heart each Sunday.

Before I continue, I need to confess something: I can’t take full credit for Wear Pants to Church Day. It was a group effort, and looking back, most of the stuff that was good and effective and thoughtful about Wear Pants to Church day is because other good, effective, and thoughtful people were behind the scenes doing their best to manage the shit-show that Mormon Feminists later referred to as the Pantspocalypse.

I suppose what I can take credit for is forming the Facebook group behind the event, and for being really angry at people who consistently told me there was no place for me in the church, and talking a lot. I am the definition of a social-media slactivist, I guess.  I had my friend read this part of my talk. She reminded me that at the time, Wear Pants to Church Day was bigger, and more liberating than I’m describing it. It probably was. All I know is that the church I had loved, and had dedicated my life to, was strangely silent as the death threats, the irate emails and countless phone-calls, and outraged messages poured into my life and gutted my soul. I knew that asking women to take a stand, to wear a visual symbol of their questions, and even their discontent, was risky. I also knew it had the potential to be empowering and meaningful.

To continue my comparison to the horses in Davita’s Harp, I already knew I could never be a white horse. Grazing peacefully is not something I am capable of doing. But with Pants, for a very small moment, I had a degree of power and influence, and whether they agreed with me or not, people were listening to me. It felt good to be a gray horse with the ability to command power like a black horse.
At the end of his story, Davita asks her uncle if the gray horse ever found other horses like him.

“No. He is no longer looking.”

“What happened to him?”

“He searched for a long time and could not find another gray horse. He returned to his valley.”

“Is that where he is now?”

“No. He decided one day to join the black horses in the mountains. One night during a terrible storm he was struck by lightning. The lightning turned burned him black, all black. He was killed.”

Sorry. That is a horribly depressing story. Thanks Chaim Potok! I believe Sue told me my talk was supposed to be light-hearted and funny. I am terrible at being funny on demand.  Go eat more dessert! This isn’t a church meeting, but you are absolutely allowed to continue self-medicating with sugar if you feel sad.

Anyway, over the years many people have told me how meaningful and important it was for them to wear pants to church. They have found the other gray horses in their lives and congregations, and they’ve found a balance between peace and power that allows them to remain in a very beautiful valley of Mormonism. I see them making the church a better, safer, kinder place. I think this is really wonderful. I’ve learned I don’t have any business telling people what they should wear to church, or how they should navigate their faith.

But for me, Wear Pants to Church Day was a bolt of lightning. It forced me to realize that despite the beautiful things I learned from Mormonism: love, empathy, conviction, strength, going back to Mormonism wasn’t the right place for me. I’d die there, spiritually and emotionally. It isn’t for me. For a long time, this felt like a second failure. I failed as a Mormon, and a Mormon activist. Maybe there truly was something wrong with me. I felt charred and blackened.

So I don’t know how I identify in relationship to Mormonism. Nothing feels right. But maybe that is my problem. As long as I continue to try and identify my soul in relation to a faith that no longer speaks to me, I’m denying myself the opportunity to see my worth simply for what I am. I am a good partner, a good Mom, a hard-worker and a decent friend when my introvert tendencies don’t manage to convince me that ignoring phone calls and text messages is socially acceptable
.
When I couldn’t attend my sister’s temple wedding a few years ago due to my heathen ways, lots of people were very sad. I like making people happy. It was hard to let them down. But in a strange way, it helped me recognize something important:  This isn’t my problem. It’s not my fault that the LDS faith doesn’t see me the way I see me. If being a good partner, a good Mom, a hard-worker and a decent friend aren’t enough, it’s not my fault. It’s okay. I am not missing out on being a good person by not being Mormon, but the church is certainly missing out on having a good person as a member.
It was worth it to wait outside the temple.  To quote Mark Twain’s Huck Finn when he decides to leave the South rather than be raised by people who won’t love his friend Jim as he does- “All right then, I’ll go to hell.”

That’s admittedly what it felt like the first few years after I left Mormonism.  I know many people here might feel the same way. Even when I knew Mormonism wasn’t right for me, for a long time I wondered if Mormonism would ever stop haunting me. I connected deeply with a poem by Nikki Giovanni titled “Alone.”

I can be
Alone by myself
I was
Lonely alone
Now I’m lonely
With you
Something is wrong
There are flies
Everywhere I go.

Every conference talk criticizing those who doubt, or a friend telling my husband how “sad” it was that I no longer went to church, every micro-aggression felt like another buzzing fly. I was still lonely. I may not have been trapped in my own heart anymore, like Davita’s gray horse, but I was just as lonely without Mormonism as within it. There were flies everywhere I went. I read about PTSD associated with leaving one’s religion. I felt very much the weight of a series of emotionally traumatic events weighing me down. Even now being inside a church building makes me feel anxious. I sit and look at people who seem nice and friendly, and I know many of them are. I know lots of nice Mormons. A Mormon guy has managed to knock me up not once but two times. But I also know it was Mormons that told me I should leave the church, that I was an unwelcome disgrace, and in the most extreme case-someday someone like the person  sitting next to me in the chapel should come and shoot me in the face. So I get nervous at church. I tend to sweat through my shirt uncontrollably.  It’s all very glamorous, the life of a maybe ex-Mormon.

But after my sister’s wedding, I drove home from her reception on a beautiful May evening full with the realization that not carrying a temple-recommend wasn’t an indicator of my value. I am grateful now, for that experience. I am grateful every time I survive an attack on my soul’s worth, which seems to happen surprisingly often when you leave the church. Every day I grow a little stronger. 

Leaving Mormonism allows me to watch myself grow up again, this time with a little more knowledge, wisdom,  and strength- things  I didn’t have growing up as a Mormon youth. That’s some crazy Benjamin-Button type shit right there. I get to grow up again. I get to see the world through new eyes and discover exactly what it is I believe.  I can reject that which I find harmful and poisonous, instead of trying to slowly build up immunity to toxins, trying to endure to the end.  I don’t have to wonder why Mormon God doesn’t seem to care very much for women like me; I don’t have to feel broken and wrong when I don’t match up with Mormonism’s definition of femininity.

Now when I make mistakes, I start over, and I grow up again. I learn again. I don’t spend my life trying to fit into a one-size-fits-all definition of goodness.  I may have given up any hopes in reaching the Celestial Kingdom, but I traded in an eternity of hearkening, baby-making and polygamy for a lifetime of making my own choices, and raising my own soul. Perhaps most importantly, my heart doesn’t break every Sunday, and I feel so glad.

Long before Disney created Elsa and her anthem beloved by toddlers everywhere, e.e. cummings wrote a poem called “let it go.” I promise it is better than the Frozen version, and it won’t be stuck in your head all night.

let it go – the
smashed word broken
open vow or
the oath cracked length
wise – let it go it
was sworn to
go
let them go – the
truthful liars and
the false fair friends
and the boths and
neithers – you must let them go they
were born
to go
let all go – the
big small middling
tall bigger really
the biggest and all
things – let all go
dear
so comes love

However you identify, or do not identify with Mormonism, what I see here, and what I have experienced in our community is love. People willing to deal with the flies buzzing, the black and white horses, all of the sadness and hurt, every lonely Sunday, all in order to give love a bigger space in our hearts. That sounds very sentimental. I generally don’t like sentimentality, or broad declarations regarding the human experience. But I thought it was worth mentioning. An ex-Mormon isn’t an anti-Mormon. It isn’t a bitter person who can’t leave the church alone. In my experience, an ex-Mormon is a person who is willing to give up all their preconceived beliefs: about the Book of Mormon, about our history, Joseph Smith, and even church leadership.  We give up the broken vows, the false friends, the small and the big. We give these things up; we let the go, and in return, make room for love.  We make room for a love of self, a love for the outsiders in our communities, a love of shopping on Sunday, and most importantly, a love for one another.

That’s my talk. I have tremendously unmediated Attention Deficit Disorder and this is the longest period of time I have ever spent talking about one thing. I hope you enjoyed it, even though I told the depressing horse story. I always like to close my talks in the name of my family. So in the name of Stephanie, Dan, Clara, and fetus Lauritzen,  Amen.












4/30/16

second daughter



The birth of my first daughter, Clara, came at the height of my faith transition. I often (somewhat jokingly) blame organizing "Wear Pants to Church Day" on a fit of post-partum induced madness. Nothing I ever do at 2:00 am comes without dire consequences.

In the aftermath of "Pants" (that name will never not be ridiculous,) I found myself raising two babies. The baby that gave me the scar on my abdomen, and the baby that broke open my chest and crushed my heart- my baby born of grief and agony- the child fathered by my loss of faith.

I loved them both, ferociously. I nurtured them both- through sleepless nights, through tears, through heartache- my twin babies grew.

Clara grew into a beautiful and happy toddler, now a precocious and wild little girl with a laugh that almost fills the infinite hole in my chest. She brings bright light to darkness and joy to pain.

Grief grew too. She grew into Hope and contentment. And just like her sister, she fills chasms with light. Sometimes, just like my other daughter, she rages- throws epic tantrums at injustice, and reminds me of the storm still raging deep inside me. In bad weather, both my scars ache with memory. Birthing two babies changed my body and my soul.

There is no going back.

Now, once again, I love a newborn. My third daughter, my wished-for child. I am trying to stay out of trouble this time. I do nothing at 2:00 am that could bring the onslaught of angry Mormons back into my life. (We had a brief scare with an op-ed in the paper, but we survived. I'm smarter now.)

Sometimes, I look around, looking for Marie's twin. Where is my fourth baby? Where is the metaphysical child born from chaos? It's strange raising just the one baby, to focus solely on nursing one spirit instead of two.

But Hope is still here, growing and learning. Just like with my other daughters, I imagine what she'll be like at 10, at 15, as an old lady weathered and strong. I've given her the responsibility of caring for me when I'm old. I rely on her to pull me away from sharp edges and steep cliffs.

This is life now. Me and three beautiful daughters- Clara, Hope, Marie. I find we raise each other. Mother each other. Love each other.














4/20/16

Mausoleum


Mausoleum

As with the Egyptians, it begins by removing the brain.
Gray matter caught on the hooked edge of
a new name,
then pulled through the nose. 

They leave the heart.
It is easily bruised  by new and everlasting covenants
battered by promises to hearken, to serve, priestesses dressed in their 
burial clothes, 
given unto him.

They leave the uterus, of course, for posterity.

A virgin sacrifice wrapped in white, bound tightly in stiff polyester,
pantomiming her own death over and over as an oily hand pulls  spirit from body.

The transition from pew to box is easy now.

Years later, as the bones crumble under cheap silk, she turns toward the sound of trumpets. Her clavicle scrapes against the lid as she turns...

The ground shakes with a familiar voice calling

calling
calling
calling

But without a brain, without a heart, only a uterus long dry and tired bones, she turns back, deep into the ground, crushed femurs and sternum and skull falling away from the robes and the veil.

That's not my name 
That's not my name
That's not my name

Has it a name?

No. 

11/8/15

What if I'm horribly wrong?

What if I’m horribly wrong?

Sometimes I think about what will happen to me after I die.  Unlike my Mormon friends, I don’t claim to know. I believe things, I hope things, but I don’t know. Not the way I was taught to know things.

For the record, I don’t share my beliefs and hopes- about death or life or God very often. It’s easy to explain what I don’t believe. But for now, I stay away from public declarations about my faith or my lack of faith, or whatever this feeling is calming my troubled heart at night. Because I don’t know. Instead of terrifying me, not knowing comforts me. Not knowing opens up a world of opportunities and potential that stretches far beyond the tiny regimented universe I was raised in.

Not knowing anything means I can believe everything. I like that.

I don’t worry about what will happen to me after I die. But I think about it sometimes, and occasionally I imagine a world where Mormon God turns out to be in charge of it all. I die, and Mormon God appears. I wonder what this strange God thinks of me. Maybe he says:

“Stephanie, you didn’t wear the right underwear. You didn’t pray the right prayers, or pay the right tithes. You liked gay people more than the prophet. You demanded to be treated as an equal, despite being a woman. You didn’t hearken unto your husband. You don’t get to be a priestess, and I’m not supposed to let you into my highest kingdom.”

What if this is my afterlife?

What if I’m horribly wrong?

I don’t know, but I’m still not scared. Because if Mormon God is right, and I’m wrong. It doesn’t mean I’m any less proud of the life I’m living. I still honor the values and the choices and the beliefs and non-beliefs I’m dedicating my life to. I’m not afraid of Mormon God.

Last weekend when the announcement was made regarding LGBT families and their children’s membership in the LDS church, I felt sad. I’m sad for families who will be hurt, I’m sad for children who will deal with adult situations they don’t understand. I’m always sad when children are the casualties of policy, and there will be casualties. I’m sad for members who want to be Mormon, but want to support their LGBT friends and families as well. It is hard to be stuck.

I feel sad for the members who are busily chiding and condemning the people they disagree with, because anger is a mask for sadness and fear, and it is hard to feel sad or afraid in church. I’m sad and I’m angry sometimes too.

I felt sad and angry about the announcement, and none of my usual coping mechanisms helped. All I wanted to do was read the words of my two favorite hymns over and over. At first, I resisted. I was mad at my old church, I didn’t want their hymns.

Then I decided to simply let my heart want what it wanted, and feel what it needed to feel. 

Not knowing anything means I can believe everything.

So I let myself follow the pattern of grief outlined in my favorite hymn:

Where can I turn for peace?
Where is my solace
When other sources cease to make me whole?
When with a wounded heart, anger, or malice,
I draw myself apart,
Searching my soul?

Where, when my aching grows,
Where, when I languish,
Where, in my need to know, where can I run?
Where is the quiet hand to calm my anguish?
Who, who can understand?
He, only One.

If I’m horribly wrong, and I face Mormon God after I die, (or the LDS Newsroom, or the PR department, or whoever the hell is in charge of Kolob,) I will tell God what I know:

“God, your other sources ceased to make me whole. I drew myself apart, and it shattered my soul. I spent years searching for the pieces, looking for the quiet hand, looking to calm my anguish. I tried my very best, but you were right, there was only one who understood me.”

In Christian tradition, the “He, only One” is the Messiah, but I’ve seen him take a million different forms over the course of my life, and in the end, the only One for me is the One promised in the final verse:

He answers privately,
Reaches my reaching
In my Gethsemane, Savior and Friend.
Gentle the peace he finds for my beseeching.
Constant he is and kind,
Love without end.

I don’t care what form “he” comes in. I don’t know if he is the Jesus I learned about in church, because I didn’t get the answers I needed in church. My answers came privately, and I learned that the only God I need to serve is kindness and love. Not only sometimes, not according to policy- constant he is and kind, love without end. Whatever this is- God, the Universe, humanity, or the broken bits of dead stars pulling us toward something bigger than ourselves, I know peace when I love without end.

If I’m horribly wrong, this is my answer to Mormon God. He’s right. I don’t wear the right underwear, and I love people more than the prophet. It’s true. But if I’m horribly wrong, I still believe I got the most important part right. I hope when I die my children can truthfully say I spent my life as a friend in the Gethsemane of others, that I followed the footsteps of a Savior, and not those who would sleep when others feel the sharp ache of a wounded heart.

If I manage to do this even a small part of my life, I don’t think it matters much what happens when I die.

Lord I would follow thee.

This is my other favorite hymn. My God and my Lord is kindness and love, this is who I follow.
But what if I’m horribly wrong, and Mormon God tells me:

“Stephanie, obedience is the first law of heaven. I told you not to trust in your own understanding. I am a harsh God who sends plagues and destroys the cities of the disobedient, cities inevitably inhabited with little children, who died because their parents were sinful and wrong. Why didn’t you defend the family? Why didn’t you condemn the sinner? What makes you so special?”

“Oh Mormon God, you are right. I didn’t do those things.  And yet…”

Who am I to judge another
When I walk imperfectly?
In the quiet heart is hidden
Sorrow that the eye can't see.
Who am I to judge another?

 I would be my brother's keeper;
I would learn the healer's art.
To the wounded and the weary
I would show a gentle heart.
I would be my brother's keeper.

“God, I was busy. Walking imperfectly. Learning the healer’s art.  Mormon God, clearly I am not a warrior. But I am my brother’s keeper. I do not defend, I am not obedient. I question things, and if we are talking, I hope it is because I am very old and in a medically-induced hallucination. I am not special, but my heart is quiet now, and gentle.”

I am not well acquainted with the God of Mormonism these days. But I’m not afraid. I am not worried about what will happen if I am horribly wrong, because it won’t negate the life I am living now, or the life I hope to create. The imperfect life that will be enough.

Someday I will die. But I believe in love without end, and strength beyond my own, even if I’m horribly wrong.













10/22/15

Essential?

 I am slightly terrified to write this. I struggle with feelings of doubt, and fear being misunderstood. I worry about seeming petty and blind to the "bigger picture." But after a lot of consideration, I feel my perspective is important enough to take on the risks associated with writing this post. Perhaps more significantly, I've learned that you cannot rely on other people to write your story for you. As Laurel Thatcher Ulrich taught us in Well Behaved Women Seldom Make History, time is not kind to those who do not record their own history.

People who I consider friends and role models recently published a book- Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings. According to the introduction by Joanna Brooks, the book "offers and introduction to the Mormon Feminist movement through the words of the women who have lived and built it. It includes writings that capture key ideas, questions, concerns, and events in Mormon feminist experience from the movement's organizing movements in the early 1970s to the present." The book is an important resource for the Mormon feminist movement, and I am happy that so many excellent resources are available in one place.

The book is visually stunning. Cover artwork features the "Pants Quilt," Sunday Morning, created by Nikki Matthews Hunter, and made from pieces of pants worn by women to church in December 2012. I've seen the quilt in person, and it is a beautiful and important piece of artwork. The quilt is also being used as part of the promotional tour for Mormon Feminism, so that other women can see the results of their activism while learning about the key events in Mormon feminist history included in the book.

So it was surprising, and yes, very heart-breaking personally, to realize that there is no other mention of Wear Pants to Church Day in the book itself (outside a single reference regarding the cover and once in the introductory timeline.) A book of "essential" writings on "key events" in the Mormon feminist experience, a book featuring the visual representation of that event on its cover, yet no words from the people who lived and built the internationally recognized event and played a key role in inspiring future Mormon feminist activism.

There is no pain quite like the pain of feeling marginalized within an already marginalized community. It feels like infection in an already deep wound.

And as beautiful and inspiring as the cover artwork is, and as necessary and important each essay may be, it does not replace the erroneous and deliberate erasure of "Pants" from this version of Mormon history. I have no theories as to why this event was not included, or why, of the myriad of both academic and personal essays about the event, none were published in Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings. 

I do know it is a gross disservice to people who helped organize the event, future Mormon feminist scholars, and church members alike.

In 2012, Joanna Brooks described Wear Pants to Church Day as "the largest concerted Mormon feminist action in history. Thousands of Mormon women from the South Pacific to Europe to North America bucked convention and wore pants to church meetings on Sunday to manifest their support for greater dialogue on the status of women within the LDS Church, and Mormon men wore purple in solidarity. 

For Mormon feminists and allies, the event was a chance to step out of silence and fear and wordlessly say, “We are here. This faith matters to us. And gender inequality weighs on us too.”

Organized by a new Mormon feminist group called “All Enlisted,” the event set off strong positive and negative reactions within the world of Mormonism—including threats of violence and intimidation directed at organizers and would-be participants.”

And yet, just three years later, the book, edited by Joanna Brooks, Rachel Hunt Steenblik, and Hannah Wheelwright, contains no mention of the event’s founders, or even “All Enlisted,” the Facebook group I created to brainstorm ideas for potential activism. (Although, strangely, the group is mentioned for later activist action in 2013.) According to the sole reference in the timeline, the event occurred almost miraculously. Somehow, somewhere, women decided to wear pants to church. We all apparently received notification to do so through osmosis. Somehow, “the largest concerted Mormon feminist action in history” is now summarized in the following way: “first Wear Pants to Church Day” (December 16).

Readers unfamiliar with the event are never given any context for the causes, results, or influence of “Pants” in Mormon Feminism- information included in either the introduction or individual essays for every other significant act of feminist activism, including the creation of WAVE and Ordain Women, both organizations created before and after the creation of All Enlisted and Wear Pants to Church Day.

Though I do not have a pending book deal in order to create my own history of Mormon Feminism, and despite the obvious fact that I am not a significant player in the eyes of my Mormon feminist sisters, I will tell you a little bit about Wear Pants to Church Day, and why it deserves a fair place in history.


  • 1. It was not an event developed, or even initially supported, by “established” Mormon feminists. Despite being written about on nearly every Mormon feminist thought-blog, and by several Mormon feminist scholars, the event was created by a 26- year- old woman with no other influence than a vaguely popular blog. That itself is pretty remarkable, because it democratized the occasionally insular world Mormon feminism. You did not need to be a “veteran” Mormon Feminist to have influence or power in All Enlisted.


  • 2.     In fact, the “admins” for All Enlisted were all volunteers. If you volunteered, you could help. This caused some pretty significant problems with leadership, and created a lot of messes, but I still think it speaks to the core values of participants and admins, we wanted everyone, and we truly were “all enlisted” in creating a meaningful form of thoughtful activism.

  • 3.       It was a world-wide movement, with a low socio-economic barrier for participation and wide international and cross-cultural platform. Anyone could participate simply by attending their local ward. This eliminated the need for “proxy” participation, and allowed all interested parties the chance to be included. (I am not criticizing activist movements which included proxy alternatives, or actions which required participants to travel to one location, just noting an advantage of Wear Pants to Church Day) We provided a near universal opportunity to practice one’s faith as an activist, and it is something organizers did right.



  • 4.       It broadened the scope of Mormon feminism to include everyone. An admittedly accurate criticism regarding the event involves the lack of clear message or “branding” for what “Pants” symbolized. Was this about ordination? Or just wanting women to be including in Priesthood Executive Meetings? Could you be a faithful Mormon and still want to see changes at church? Could women who did not seek ordination find common ground with those who did? While it was definitely confusing to have different answers for these questions, I think it was also a source of power. Just as there was no socio-economic barrier to pants, there was no faith requirement. Inactive women (like me) participated. Active women participated. Ex and Post Mormons who wanted a chance to honor their former selves participated. That was beautiful.



  • 5.       It evolved to encompass other, equally important issues within Mormonism. By 2013, Mormon feminism had already evolved significantly. Under the leadership of Nancy Ross and Jerilyn Hassell Pool, “Pants” became an event dedicated to inclusion of all marginalized groups in Mormonism, and I think these changes and evolution helped make church safer for many members.



  • 6.       All Enlisted was created on December 6, 2012. Wear Pants to Church Day occurred on December 16. In 10 Days, All Enlisted significantly altered the landscape of Mormon feminism. I remember Kate Kelly talking to me on the phone after the event, and telling me that if “Pants” was such a big deal, Mormon Feminists might as well ask for real, significant changes. The stakes were already high, the rewards ought to be high as well. I’m not taking credit for Ordain Women, or their work, or even claiming I inspired Kate Kelly to found her organization. But I do think “Pants” helped create an eager and motivated population of activist Mormons, ready to tackle the challenges of gender inequality in the church.

There were lots of flaws in “Pants.” It wasn’t a perfect movement. When I say it ought to have been included more thoroughly in Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings, it isn’t because I believe I personally needed to submit an essay, or because I need personal validation for the event. It ought to have been included simply because it was the first large-scale mainstream act of Mormon feminist activism outside the literary or online realm in several years, possibly decades. That alone should merit its inclusion in any book proclaiming to be a “comprehensive” and “essential” guide to the movement.

But because the personal is political, I will confess to feeling a bit appropriated by the book. The results of my history, the image of the quilt made by the pants I encouraged women to wear, is being sold for profit, while my name remains absent from the history I helped create. If the adage “for most of history, anonymous was a woman” is true, then Mormon Feminism: Essential History, like the Mormon Church before, has given me a new name. I don’t think I like it.

 I am not anonymous. My name is Stephanie Lauritzen. In 2012 I organized All Enlisted.We organized “Wear Pants to Church Day.” It was essential to Mormonism. It was essential to me.








UPDATE: I didn't include the names of the All Enlisted admins, and I ought to have. I wasn't sure they wanted to be included in this part of the story. I shouldn't have made an assumption, and inadvertently continued the erasure of Wear Pants to Church Day from history. Each one of these individuals did just as much work as I did, and sometimes more, for Pants. They helped make the group and event successful. I recently spoke about Pants at the Ex-Mormon Foundation Conference, and I was very open in recognizing that everything good, thoughtful,and meaningful about PANTS was the result of the good, thoughtful, and meaningful people who helped. Admins were Sandra Durkin Ford, Emilie Holmes Wheeler, Jenne Erigero Alderks, Hannah Pritchett Sara Katherine Staheli Hanks, and Kimberly Brinkerhoff, with special help from Meli Curtis Penford and Chelsea Robarge Fife who helped with PR and media. 











In addition to the news and media coverage, (Pants was covered in several national and local news outlets, including The New York Times, LA Times, NPR, and Huffington Post, many people wrote beautiful essays and papers on the significance of Wear Pants to Church Day. Some other “Essential Writings” about Wear Pants to Church Day include but are certainly not limited to the following sources:

Nancy Ross and Jessica Finnigan published a paper in the Interdisciplinary Journal ofResearch on Religion titled “I’m a Mormon Feminist”: How Social Media Revitalizedand Enlarged a Movement. The paper, but not the events mentioned within, is recognized as a footnote in Mormon Feminism: Essential Writings. This paper provides a good history on the significance of “Pants” and activism via social media. 

All Enlisted member Curtis Penford wrote about the positive and negative reaction to Wear Pants to Church Day at Young Mormon Feminists. (pantsgate 2012)

Sandra Ford, All Enlisted administrator and creator/manager of the Wear Pants to Church Day Facebook page wrote an essay on Feminist Mormon Housewives advocating for Mormon feminists to wear pants. (Mormon Feminists in Whoville and Why You Should Wear Pants to Church this Sunday)

Writers from The Exponent blog shared their experiences on Wear Pants to Church Day (Our Experience with Wear Pants to Church Day)

SunstoneMagazine essay on the long-term impact Wear Pants to Church Day. ("Wear Pants to Church" Sunday Brings Attention to Women's Issues)
By Common Consent  blog compares Wear Pants to Church Day to secular silencing of female activists online.  (How to Silence an (LDS) Woman: You're Doing it Wrong.)

Princeton graduate Emmy Williams submitted her paper, "Apostates, Heretics, Tools of the Patriarchy: Defining the Spectrum of Contemporary Mormon Feminism" to the Department of Religion as part of her senior thesis capstone. 

Zelophehad's Daughters post on the politics of "Pants." (The Politics (say it ain't so) of Pants)

My good friend Courtney wrote an essay on her blog on the process of deciding to wear pants (or not.) (The Worst Thing is Pants)

The Juvenile Instructor post on PANTS. (Joan in Armor, Zone Leaders in Skirts, and Mormon Women in Pants.)