On July 7, 2016, I was cruising cyberspace’s social media when I came across a most fascinating and brilliant person and writer, Luna Flesher Lindsey.
Her comments on Facebook grabbed me. I could relate to them. I, too, was ostracized while living in Utah among the LDS/ The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, from 1948 to1960. In my case, it was for being a Mormon fundamentalist.
In Luna’s case, it was for being a highly-functioning autistic person, a genius, and a bisexual; i.e., for being different—for not fitting in, not going along with the crowd in everything—though she tried to go-along-to-get-along. Everybody wants to be accepted and respected—not rejected just for being who they are.
In Luna Lindsey’s following Facebook commentary, she exhibits a beautiful way with words as she expresses so well some of her memoirs of what ostracism feels like. But first some of my own commentary, by way of introduction:
Luna Lindsey grew up a mainstream-LDS-Mormon. As an adult, she chose to leave “the church.” Her most interesting social media comments to her friends online (comments I’m posting below) relate some of her painful experiences growing up in that tight-knit, Utah-Mormon environment.
Unfortunately, her words begin in mid-stream: I failed to copy her introductory Facebook comments. However, what I did capture and preserve is a story worth hearing—a heart-rendering human experience that speaks to me and others in diverse ways—ways that express how all feel who grow up ostracized.
It would have been sad to see these comments lost to Facebook, as most of our comments are. But before we get into her riveting remarks, let me add that upon messaging Luna for permission to post her Facebook comments here, I learned she was an Author and Public Speaker.
Having already seen how brilliant she was, how talented, I promptly bought one of her books: Recovering Agency: Lifting the Veil of Mormon Mind Control. I later bought it in audiobook form, also.
Upon beginning to read this outstanding chronology of Mormon truths, I could hardly put the text down. I have it on my list of books to read, listen to, and study again in the near future, having finished this well-documented manuscript much more enlightened, educated, and mentally well-fed — and much more a recovered Mormon!
Now, Lindsey’s comments, beginning midstream; ending full circle:
Writes Luna Lindsey (speaking to her friend on Facebook):
“I’m realizing that even though we were in the LDS church at the same time, that our difference in age (and gender) could have a huge impact on our different perceptions of the experience.
“I was terrified to be different. There were certain lines I knew I could never cross. I had to act and be as feminine as I could, to fit the gender roles which were constantly being thrown at me. I felt deeply ashamed that I wasn’t good with kids, that I didn’t like cooking, that I wasn’t good at sewing.
“I was constantly told I was blessed with inherent nurturing capabilities and that children would bring me joy, yet they didn’t! I watched as all the girls my age (I won’t call them friends, because only 2 of them were ever my friend, in all my 18 years as a Mormon child) acted as girly as possible, who rushed to see the new baby in the ward, and I felt like a freak because I didn’t share their enthusiasm.
“And I didn’t feel nurturing. I wanted to build rockets and study insects and sit at my computer. I felt like something was wrong with me, because the Church said I should be that way, and I wasn’t.
“I felt overwhelming shame at anything sexual. I was taught, from a young age, that God knew every impure thought we ever had, and that it was a terrible sin. When I started growing leg hair, I stopped swimming. I could only wear pants in summer. Because I was too embarrassed to ask my peers about such things.
“I knew how to shave my legs, kind of, but I wasn’t very good at it, and I wasn’t sure if I was doing it well enough. And talking about it seemed like I was talking about sex. My legs felt like they had to do with sex, so I just covered myself up and avoided swimming, and suffered thru hot summers with capris instead of shorts.
“I had crushes but was too ashamed to seem “boy crazy”, so I never talked about them and felt terribly ashamed that I even had them at all.
“I had fantasies. I didn’t even know what sex was, so they weren’t even sexual fantasies, but I felt like they were wrong, and even admitting that here and now, scares me. These were my deepest, darkest secrets, and when the Bishop asked me during interviews, “Have you had any impure thoughts,” I lied and said “No,” but I’d been taught that the Bishop has the Power of Discernment, and can tell if you’re lying.
“So I felt like he could see into my soul like God could. I was terrified. (Incidentally, having girls (and boys) aged as young as 12, alone in a room with a grown man who is asking sexual questions is extremely problematic, and in my mind, abusive.)
“And here’s something that happened to me. You probably don’t know that I was put on voluntary disfellowshiping because I got naked with a boyfriend once. (We didn’t have sex, just made out.) I went through the repentance process.
“Later, when I was getting my temple recommend, I had an interview with a counselor of the Kennewick Stake Presidency. He asked if I had any sins in my past, and I replied, “Not that I haven’t repented of. I went through disfellowshipping for something.” And he started pressing for details. I told him, “I thought those sins were washed clean.” No, he needed to know.
“He asked for details, LOTS of details. The Bishop hadn’t asked for these details when I was repenting. But this Counselor, he wanted a picture. And he asked lots of questions about why I did it, too.
“It seemed like he was getting off on it. It was super creepy, but since he was “called of God”, I didn’t feel I had any right to stop him, to set boundaries, to say no. My “Temple Recommend” (and eternal ordinances attached to that) were hanging in the balance. He had complete power over me.
“Since I’ve left, I discovered that this is a common story, and in fact, many members have been abused more than this in those situations. And it was abuse, no question. And it did not even follow the doctrine surrounding repentance.
“The kids my age gossiped. A lot. As a teen. Later, as a young single adult. Wanna know why I never found a nice Mormon guy to marry? Because I was the Other. I didn’t fit the gender norm, and I was a divorced single mom. These two things alone were enough to make me an undesirable. It was extremely difficult to even get dates.
“One guy I dated, who was also a friend for many years, got honest with me and told me that his other friends thought I was weird and they didn’t want to hang out with me. That’s how social dynamics work.
“If you set up a “norm” and go on and on and on about how it’s the norm, anyone who is an outlier will be singled out for maltreatment. It’s just how human beings are wired. You can say “Love one another” but if you keep “othering” those who are different, it’s incredibly difficult for members to understand what “love one another” really means.
“Being a divorced single mom made sitting in Church painful as well. They’d get up there with talks about how great families were, how great husbands and wives were in supporting one another, how the Plan of Salvation was so great because of families, how important it was for mothers to spend time focusing on their children, and every single time they gave one of those talks or RS (Relief Society) lessons, I just wanted to CRY.
“They didn’t give any space for people like me to exist. They never once gave a talk focused on how much of a struggle it is to be a single mom, or how painful divorce can be, or how members can love and help those who are different.
“Occasionally they’d say one or two sentences on those things, but a sentence now and then isn’t enough to have an effect on a majority of members, nor can a sentence really give those members an understanding of what it’s like to be “other.” All the focus is on people who are normal, who naturally fit in.
“And it leads to, yes, gossip. Abuse. Bullying. Shunning. It just does.”
(By Luna Flesher Lindsey, July 2016; published here with permission.)
The BITE model: The specific methods that cults use to recruit and maintain control over people.
“B”: Behavior Control
- Promote dependence and obedience
- Modify behavior with rewards and punishments
- Dictate where and with whom you live
- Restrict or control sexuality
- Control clothing and hairstyle
- Regulate what and how much you eat and drink
- Deprive you of seven to nine hours of sleep
- Exploit you financially
- Restrict leisure time and activities
- Require you to seek permission for major decisions
To me, a former member of the LDS Church, these are self-evident. To a current member, they may not be so evident. Why? Confirmation bias. Obedience to authority, depending on authority for the current word of God, behaving in accordance with proscribed actions, paying tithes and generous offerings in order to receive anticipated rewards (blessings, status, ability to participate in ordinances not available to those who don’t), sexuality (including modes of dress, abstinence until marriage, heterosexual only, personal arousal, etc.), “busy work” (Ministering – formerly Home/Visiting Teaching), time-consuming callings and assignments, recommendation to date and marry within the Church, Word of Wisdom, etc.
These are methods to control behavior! Period!
Members will protest, saying they choose these things and are not forced. However, each of these things has a reward, if they are chosen, meaning they ARE, absolutely, forms of control! Sure, one does not have to follow or comply with these things, but where does that leave this member? What will happen? Will he/she be left alone?
If they are noticed, no (have you ever attended a Ward Council meeting??)!
This is behavior control, pure and simple.
Thoughts Pro/Con? Please comment!