Life after leaving the Mormon Church

Rachel Velamur

Rachel Velamur
February 15
Born and raised in a strict Mormon family. I write about what life was like as a Mormon and what my life is like after leaving.


JUNE 5, 2012 11:26AM

Mormons & Pagans

Rate: 11 Flag

         I grew up in upstate New York, where Mormons constitute a very small minority.  My home was in a rural area, right in the middle of a large state forest.  One of the few neighbors within walking distance is a couple who moved to the area forty years ago, around the same time that my parents did.  The husband is a folk singer who does voice-work for the local radio and his wife works as a lab technician.  


          For the past thirty-five years, my neighbors have hosted a annual series of three parties --- May Day, Stone Soup, and Winter Solstice.  For May Day, there is a may-pole and dancing, along with a distribution of flowers to remind us all that spring is coming.  Every year, I got a paper cup with a little johnny-jump-up.  I took the flowers home and planted them in our garden, where the flowers are still blooming.  For the Stone Soup party, there is a dramatic re-enactment of a tired old soldier wandering into the party, begging for a meal, and promising to make soup from a single stone.  “Oh, but if someone, anyone, had just a few sprinkles of herbs --- or a little carrot --- or just a potato, one potato --- that would just make the soup so much better.” he would ask as we taunted him, telling him to leave the party and go elsewhere.  Then, one by one, everyone would bring forth an item and add it to the pot.  For the winter solstice, we hiked up into the woods to burn the may-pole from the spring before.  As the may-pole burned, we stood around the flames holding hands as we shared our hopes and dreams for the year ahead.  Winter solstice was a reminder that though the winters were long and cold, the sun would once again make an appearance.  


          When the celebrations had ended, we all ate a potluck dinner, crammed into the warm, rough-hewn confines of my neighbors’ house.  Afterwards, everyone got out their instruments and the singing lasted well into the night; the party only ended once everyone had left.  This was an event where everyone was welcome and no one was ever forced to leave; people came from as far from Vermont to attend these parties.  


          What I only realized as an adult is the fact that my neighbors are pagan.  I never thought to ask and I also never connected the celebration of pagan holidays with the parties that my neighbors throw every year.  My neighbors are private people; they won’t tell if you don’t ask.  I don’t know what their interactions with my parents were like; knowing my father he has tried to give them a Book of Mormon at one time or another.  But my neighbors never treated me any differently because of what my family was.  And I also understood, even as an over-enthusiastic teenager, that discussion of religion with my neighbors was off-limits.  

Your tags:


Enter the amount, and click "Tip" to submit!
Recipient's email address:
Personal message (optional):

Your email address:


Type your comment below:
It's ironic, isn't it? The peaceful, nature-loving, spiritual Pagans were a threat to Christianity's evil desires to subjugate the world in order to satiate their own hunger for power, so they effectively Christian-washed over the benign, yet truly spiritual and peace-supporting traditions of Pagan holidays such as Winter Solstice, transforming it to Christmas; exchanging the Pagan Goddess of fertility “Estre” with Easter, etc…

Now we have in the place of Pagan peace and harmony; war, hate, bigotry, selfishness and greed.

Such wondrous advancements in civilization we’ve made over the centuries since the advent of “Christianity.” Hell! Even the once dominate matriarchal and peaceful societies of early middle-eastern cultures knew how to rule peacefully, that is until the Bible, Koran, Torah et al converted us to the patriarchal hate-mongers of the “modern world.”
It is ironic. And the thing is, I have a feeling that if my father knew, he would have treated them very badly. But as it is, I only figured out what the parties were about after I became good friends with a pagan. She started explaining her holidays to me and suddenly it clicked.

I guess my neighbors are examples of people that live their religion in quiet grace. And they are really nice people; as a child, I used to go over to their house and play with their cats. They always seemed happy to see me.
Look on the bright side! The fundies and the Catholics will gladly burn both of you as heretics!

That's why I love all religions equally. (as in not at all!)
Amy: I'm pretty happy with my status as a heretic; it's a lot of fun. ;-)
I like this... come one, come all. Makes total sense to me...
tr ig: They were great parties, a lot of fun. And pretty low-key. Although as a kid, I never quite understood why the adults were giggling during the May-Day dance. Then I went back as an adult and finally understood what the references to May Pole really meant. :-)
baltimore aureole is right on the money -- just about everything we celebrate is done with a pagan tradition as its format. It might amuse you to know that it wasn't until recently, after reading fellow OSer and friend Myriad's posts over time, that I realized a pagan was something other than a heathen with no morals, which is what I was taught to believe in Catholic school. lol

Lezlie: Yeah, I always thought pagans were heathens with no morals too. But then I became really good friends with a pagan and she started explaining to me what she believed. And overall, pagans strike me as being a pretty open-minded bunch.
It sounds like you had very nice neighbors and lived or live in a very special place. We can all get along if religion is not the focus.
Amy - when I was around 9 or 10, my friend's father was the pastor of the Methodist Church not far from my house. For some reason, they decided to take me to a meeting at the church, probably hoping against hope that they could rid me of the demons that resided within.

It was summer in Oklahoma; miserably hot, still and humid and I was NOT a settled kid by any definition, even when the weather was kinder.

The guest speaker was giving his sermon and I was doing what I did best; making a disturbance like all hell was loosed on the poor folks in the church. The speaker stopped his speech and pointed at me saying; “see that young man there? He’s got the devil in him.”

I was told later by my friend’s father that I had embarrassed him, not only in front of his congregation, but in front of Oral Roberts (the guest speaker) too. I had no idea who in hell Oral Roberts was, but he had one hell of a weird-ass name and he was rude as hell, pointing at me the way he did.

I am a national icon (if not treasure); the kid who was cursed by Oral Roberts himself. I'm the heathen child from Oklahoma; and damned proud of it, despite the efforts of that guy with the weird-ass name.
Oh Bob, you never cease to amaze me. Once again, I am laughing like a crazy person. :-)
What a nice post! As a card-carrying Pagan, I particularly enjoyed it.
Paganism, of course, is a large part of Christian ritual. My neighbors in the past (we've all moved) were Mormons, a doctor, a teacher and their 6 high-achieving, talented, nice kids. They were great community volunteers, active in their church and invited us over to their house and a couple of parties and some weddings. I wouldn't have thought anything weird about their religion (other than what I read) from them, except for the long underwear lines in the women's slacks sometimes. They respected my Judiaism and never pushed their religion on our family.
However, I think it's really different from within the family. the level of control and management could be unbearable to a free thinker.
Jackie: There are also differences among Mormons in terms of trying to convert. For example, my mother has always been very private about her beliefs whereas my father is constantly looking for ways to give people Books of Mormon. A lot of it is just the individual, although there is a lot of emphasis at church about trying to convert others.
This is great. How cool that you were exposed to that as a child!
Firechick: They were great neighbors. And the parties were so much fun; very laid-back, very friendly.
Paganism was previously used to describe any religion that disagreed with the Christian religion. this was actually a large number of different religions most of which no longer exist. From what little I know modern Paganism is often a recreation of an old one that is actually a new religion based on modern values. I imagine the rituals can be fun; I remember the story of the "wonderful wonderful soup stone" when i was a kid too. Thought it was great but the people that told me about it weren't pagans.

Or at least I didn't think they were. HHmmm