While I was in the middle of writing Mormon Diaries, my mother suggested I wait to write about my faith crisis until her and dad had passed away. She asked why I insisted on dredging up painful memories that could make others think poorly of our family.
My answer: “Because I won’t remember the story or the emotions that go with it if I wait that long to write it down.”
I guess I could have waited twenty years to put this story out into the world, but I think the world needs it now. So often when we talk about religious freedom, it’s about freedom to exclude whomever we choose from sacred rites and special ceremonies. So often when we talk about religious freedom, intellectual freedom is overlooked. The hard questions about how much freedom of thought a person truly has inside a given religion, and how much power religions have to take freedom from adherents are often not answered, let alone asked.
I’m hoping this book changes that:
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What are your thoughts on religious freedom? Do you think it's a simple thing? Is the right to worship when and where we choose enough, or is there more to it?
I don’t like you.
My stomach cramps whenever you’re around. You think I’m clueless, that I don’t see you. Wrong. I know what you are. Your kiss is soft, your mouth breathes poison, and as I sit on the loveseat, looking into my mother’s eyes, I cringe at what I see inside them.
“Just listen, Carl," she says to my dad. "Sophia has something to tell you.” Her voice has an edge. It teeters on the brink of madness. I know when I start talking, my father will turn mad as well.
“You’ll need to sit for this,” I whisper.
“Sophia’s right,” my mom says, leading Dad to the couch. “You won’t be expecting this.”
When she looks at me, her eyes are moist and brimming with tears.
I inhale. This is not the strong woman who raised five independent children. This is not the understanding, empathetic mom who took care of me when I was morning sick with my second child. You’ve stolen her.
“I don’t like keeping secrets,” I say, twisting my fingers into knots. I need to blurt it out. Do it fast. Get it over with.
“Do we have to do this now?” Dad asks, “I need to make a phone call.”
“Just listen,” Mom says. “This is more important.”
Dad starts to get up, but my mother glares at him. She takes the seat to my left, and when she glances at me, a tear rolls down her wrinkled cheek. The air tastes stale. My tongue is thick in my mouth.
Dad clears his throat. “What’s so important?”
If staying busy were an Olympic sport, my dad would win a medal. He may be a musician that only holds part time jobs, but he’s always moving. There’s impatience in his voice as he leans forward. Silence before the storm. I take a breath and begin.
“I love you both a lot,” I say. “That’s not going to change.”
He frowns and glances at his watch.
“I just . . . don’t think Mormonism has more truth than other religions,” I blurt.
My Dad freezes. He no longer cares about the time. His pale blue eyes are riveted on my face as his hands cling to the armrest of the couch.
“But we taught you the truth,” he says. So much for being busy. He shakes his head. A crease forms between his eyes. I see my father struggling, trying to push you down, banish you, pretend you don’t exist. But the shame’s too painful; you’re too painful. “I am so disappointed in you, Sophia.”