the smell of my desperation has become a stench

Reason Number 16

There are several reasons why I left the Mormon Church, all of which I’ve only ever articulated to my husband and, on occasion, my dog. Many of these reasons are not only related to why I left Utah in the first place, but they are also inextricable from Utah culture as a whole. And I thought that after four years of distance and intermittent therapy I might be capable of coming back here without feeling the bitterness that sent me fleeing in the first place.

Just a side note here: I already know that many of you are going to complain that I’m talking about the Mormons again and that you like it when my posts talk about funny things, couldn’t I just stop being so serious because this is really getting boring. And don’t think that I haven’t considered turning off my comments when people make remarks like that, as if the sole purpose of maintaining my website it to entertain some 13-yr old in Wisconsin who likes to talk about farts.

When I moved to California I never listened to the radio, except for NPR, and I never watched the local news, except for Good Day LA and then only because I couldn’t wait to see what Jillian Barberie had sticking out of her water bra. I never felt a need in California to keep up with social or political currency because it surrounded me, almost suffocated me. It was like, everyone knew that a bill was being considered to outlaw gay marriage, not by watching the local NBC affiliate, but by osmosis.

But here in Utah I can’t stop listening to the radio, regardless of the endless stream of mind-numbing bubba dink music from Linkin Park or Creed or, for the love of God, Puddle of Fucking Mud. I watch the local news every night, if only to perform my duty as a Democrat living in Utah, sometimes to figure out how they get all that blonde hair to encircle that woman’s face like a gold laminate life saver every time.

And I know it’s only been four years, and that people need some time to change, but the same issues and the same reactions are happening right now, this morning, just as they were a decade, two decades, four generations of Polygamist colonization ago.

And the main issue that gets me every time, that rips free the hardening scab to expose a bubbling, bitter hole in my soul is the idea that if I can’t just be quiet and accept the way things are here, I should just move elsewhere. I was told this at BYU, that if I couldn’t accept the leadership of the Prophet of God, who sat on the board of directors of the school, that I should just leave, that hundreds of thousands of other willing disciples would love to take my place and that they wouldn’t complain.

Now I hear it when I make the slightest peep to disagree with the fact that the Mormon Church and the Utah State Government are almost one complete unit. I’m supposed to just accept that Utah is predominantly Mormon, and that subsequently a government by the people and for the people of Utah is going to cater to Mormon people. But what I’m not allowed to point out is that I am one of those people now, one of those people who pays taxes and purchases local goods, a person who regularly contributes to the local economy.

And so, I guess to be honest and maybe as an attempt to continue healing, I’ll tell you that this issue is one of the reasons why I left the Mormon Church. And although it may seem like an issue specific to just Utah culture, you have to understand that for a Mormon it’s very hard to disagree with any Mormon doctrine or practice and still maintain good standing in the church. And I don’t know if you can tell or not, but I have a hard time agreeing with anything.

  • eponymous

    2002/12/16 at 1:14 pm

    Excellent reasons. Sadly religious zealots live everywhere. The only place I have seen Agnostic win out is in Seattle.

  • kath

    2002/12/16 at 1:14 pm

    Wow, I so totally disagree with BeerzieBoy — in a job, someone else owns the place so indeed you may not have any say in how it is run. But when you live in a state, you ARE one of the owners! And if a state as big as Utah doesn’t have room for more than one mind, it’s the state that needs to change, not the people who have their own minds. I think you have a constitutional obligation to scream bloody murder, dooce, when the Mormon church and the state of Utah act as one!! Oh, wait, maybe the church overrides the constitution in Utah…

  • sam

    2002/12/16 at 1:15 pm

    wouldn’t you feel a lot better if you lived here instead of with your mom?

  • slackjaw

    2002/12/16 at 1:17 pm

    “Only Listend to NPR”??? (runs around screaming!!) GET OUT OF THE HOUSE… GET OUT OF YOUR CAR! AEEEEEEEIII!!!

    Sorry, everytime I hear the words ” I only listen to NPR” I remember a quote I read on f-train. “All NPR feels to my brain, like licking custard off of asphalt would feel to my tongue.”

    It seems to me you’ve just gone from one mind-numbing cultural creation to another.

    (though having an angel named Maroni seems cool, kind of like having your very own custom-made can of Chef Boyardi!)

  • jess

    2002/12/16 at 1:18 pm

    brewvies? that’s fucking cool.

    also, dooce, i always read. whether you’re being serious or hilarious. i love reading you. in fact, i check back many times a day waiting for an update. you never fail to cheer me up when i’ve had a bad day.

  • dooce

    2002/12/16 at 1:22 pm

    that’s Moroni, slackjaw. and don’t be dissing NPR. if I weren’t already married, I’d totally go after Bob Edward’s ass.

  • dooce

    2002/12/16 at 1:35 pm

    sam, don’t you think you’d feel a lot better if you told your mom that you’re wearing her panties?

  • peggy

    2002/12/16 at 2:08 pm

    I traveled to Utah regularly years ago, as a publisher’s sales rep, and man it was hard- especially meeting with the buyers at the Deseret Books stores. I got the arched eyebrow from one after answering her questions: Um, 27. Uh no, I’m not married. I am of course what she suspected me to be, but it was hardly her beeswax. I used to be invited to the home of the owners of Cosmic Aeroplane books (wonder if they’re still there), where I could smoke, drink, cuss, laugh, you know, feel normal. I don’t envy you and Jon, but I know you can overcome that part of your outer world -your inner world and your family are what count.

  • Ren

    2002/12/16 at 2:22 pm

    I am slightly disturbed by the bashing element of some of the comments, just as I am disturbed by the oppression I often feel within my own religion (I’m a Mormon, yes I am…). For myself, I know the oppresion comes from the people and culture, and not from the “doctrine”. Even knowing that, it is still oppresive. I hope to help change things, in my own way, with my own enlightened husband and children. I’m Mormon, mostly vote democrat (although Gore’s a little freaky), pregnant, feminist, vegetarian, living in Utah. Upon review of the last passage, possibly bi-polar. Discrimination and intolerance comes in many forms, conservative or liberal.
    p.s. dooce, I think your a-ok.

  • cicada

    2002/12/16 at 3:06 pm

    When it’s all said and done, we are each responsible for living our own life, despite what anyone or anything else tells us. Any organization with any measurable power (be it socio-political-economic, whatever) is just begging to be questioned. Blind obeisance is for the stupid or irresponsible. Dooce, I hope you keep those questions coming. Let ’em out, baby!

  • kidfarthest

    2002/12/16 at 3:27 pm

    I think the Mormons are right about one thing– you’re not truly happy unless you’re a drone. Because if you’re a drone, then you belong, and we all wanna belong to something, don’t we? Even the most counter of the counter culturalists is belonging in some inept way or another. Belonging to a huge and well-established religion is a much more skillful way to belong. It’s survival, dude. Mormons survive very well. Give it up for indoctrination and procreation. The key, I believe, is a certain amount of acceptance, mixed with a certain amount of skepticism. If a drone, be a witty, adventurous drone– but don’t knock being a drone. We all really want to be one. After all, what is marriage but belonging to someone else? Belonging to a societal institution. Conforming to a tradition– but you don’t have to be an automoton about it.

    I think a certain number of us need to seriously lower our standards and do a little accomodation of the cud-chewers who dominate our culture if only for the furtherance of the common good.

    Who are we saving the planet for? The drones! Who do we love when we get that tingly feeling of brotherly & sisterly love? The cud-chewers and the drones!

    Acceptance can’t be rammed down our throats. Happiness is a gift that we can only give ourselves, and the drones have it handily gift-wrapped for your purchasing pleasure. We ain’t no better than anyone else, Hoss. We just the same as all them other folks in the end.

    And if we embraced the mundane maybe, just maybe, we could all figure out how to “just get along”.

  • kidfarthest

    2002/12/16 at 3:32 pm

    Also– putting up with other peoples’ shit is maybe 75% of the fun of life. Learn to thrive on conflict and discomfort (preferably the discomfort of others). Mormons are a prime population for gustatory discomfiture. Dig it.

  • The Republican

    2002/12/16 at 3:42 pm

    U guys sound like a bucnch of whiney snot nosed litlle shits that never were told NO or SUCK IT UP!!! Of course things arent gonna go your way. Sometimes even when you are right, JUst shut up go to work pay your taxes as all you liberals love to do your fair share (Yeah Right) and quit ur bitching. Something is bothering you ??!! Do something other than BITCH about it.

  • sean

    2002/12/16 at 3:44 pm

    i’m hungry.

  • kidfarthest

    2002/12/16 at 4:02 pm

    I LOVE to hear Republicans whine. Primo discomfiture.

  • Jenny

    2002/12/16 at 4:09 pm

    WORD on the Brewvies.

    You also must must try the new bar on State called ‘The Bayou’. Try their Paulaner Oktoberfest Beer. Mmmmmmm….

  • eve

    2002/12/16 at 4:30 pm

    not everyone there is mormon. find them (echoing heather’s thoughts)

    my catholic monk friend moved there, and he’s not very religious (and i am SO not kidding… he joined the monastery to see if he can find out why mom and dad were all over it and him and his siblings, well, never were).

  • Brent

    2002/12/16 at 4:37 pm

    Hmmm… Please indulge my cantankerousness a moment: isn’t your post saying what you say you’re not allowed to say? I understand your frustration, but — fact is — your (minority) voice is out there now. It may not be heard the way you want, but everyone in your position feels the same powerlessness. Democracy’s a bitch when it doesn’t go your way!Heck, I want the U.S. to metricate — and I talk about it to whomever’ll listen — but I’ll be damned if I see it in my lifetime! Hence the old phrase, “When in Rome…”

  • Me

    2002/12/16 at 4:46 pm

    You really should think about limiting or turning off the comments feature.

  • kgjbnme

    2002/12/16 at 4:52 pm

    Yo, Republican: Actually most of “us liberals” here *were* told “no,” as in, “No, ‘whiny’ isn’t spelled with an ‘e,'” and as in “No, you may not call other people ‘snot nosed litlle [sic] shits.'”

  • sourbob

    2002/12/16 at 5:36 pm

    Farts are all well and good, but I prefer your withering dissections of things that piss you off. Funny or not funny, it’s the bile I relate to.

  • Stephen L. Richards

    2002/12/16 at 6:41 pm

    “I have said these things because I fear dictatorial dogmatism, rigidity of procedure and intolerance even more than I fear cigarettes, cards, and other devices the adversary may use to nullify faith and kill religion. Fanaticism and bigotry have been the deadly enemies of true religion in the long past. They have made it forbidding, shut it up in cold grey walls of monastery and nunnery, out of sunlight and fragrance of the growing world. They have garbed it in black and then in white, when in truth it is neither black nor white, any more than life is black or white, for religion is life abundant, glowing life, with all its shades, colors and hues, as the children of men reflect in the patterns of their lives the radiance of the Holy Spirit in varying degrees. ”

    “A good man, is a good man, whether in this church, or out of it.”
    -Brigham Young

    Brigham Young on conformity:

  • mal

    2002/12/16 at 6:42 pm

    for what it’s worth, an abundance of drones is not unique to mormondom. you’ll find hundreds of thousands in frat houses on the east coast, in alaskan fisheries, in pta meetings and paloozas and at pride parades. drone-nivity is a function of one’s self-image and fears, not one’s beliefs.


    the sad fact is that majority voices have a tendency to rule and, as frustrating as it is, our responsibility as those with minority voices is to do exactly what you’re doing: speak. become educated. scream and yell and jump up and down and then find ways to find peace for long stretches between tantrums, regardless of where that peace places you in relation to the so-called mainstream.

    whatever works for you works, dooce. i think you’re great and i support your indignance.

    (go, fight, win.)

  • dennis

    2002/12/16 at 7:33 pm

    I’m beginning to feel a bit bad about all this picking-on-Utah, but… This caught my eye (from Utah Beer Tax …Utah 51st among states in beer consumption, but want to raised taxes to discourage beer consumption.

  • Stan

    2002/12/16 at 7:45 pm

    I’ve been there Heather. Been through it and came out on the other side. I’m an LDS dropout too. I came back to Utah because it is my home, and because it is one of the most beautiful places in the world, and because what is most important in life, my family, is here. I try to do my bit for the opposition, express my opinion, vote on the liberal side of the issues, but for the most part I have come to a place where I can just ignore most of it and live my life with some serenity. I’m here because after all of my world travels and life changes, this is home. I guess home is, after all, where you grew up.

  • SnarkyPup

    2002/12/16 at 8:04 pm

    You know, I was having a kind of crappy day, thinking that I’m not so sure I like this place to which I moved last summer, and thinking I’m not so sure I like this job (or this line of work), which I’ve entered after 10 (count them, 10) years of grad school. Then I heard this afternoon that one of my best friends has colon cancer. Do you have colon cancer? No? Then maybe you should stop complaining about living somewhere new and rejoice about your nice, healthy colon.

  • The Mighty Jimbo

    2002/12/16 at 8:18 pm

    Those are all good reasons Dooce. But I can think of lots of places out west that have most of the same advantages. Sure it’s good to be near the family, but won’t they drive you more nuts than the sheep running the local govt? Sure, I love my family too, but I can’t live within 1000 miles of them. Fart jokes notwithstanding. And lord knows, I love a good fart joke.

  • Tall1

    2002/12/16 at 10:06 pm

    Your family must be pretty incredible to make it worth living in Utah. Twice you used the expression “Utah culture” as if such a thing actually exists.

  • ChibaCity

    2002/12/16 at 10:09 pm

    Tell them this. A Fatwa for thee. It is difficult to grasp the scope of

    the revolution we are amidst. The earth now orbits the sun. Time is no

    longer fit to a human scale — two generations forward, two back — but

    is now infinite. A drop of water has been revealed to swim with as much

    structure as the starry sky. And the sky: in each dot the size of a

    pencil’s point swim 1500 galaxies. We realize that the troposphere, lying

    teeming and fecund on the earth, is only as thick as a sheen of oil on a

    thousand kilometer deep lake. We understand that language, tools,

    community, culture — reason even — are ordinary phenomena amongst

    living communities. We know, as demonstrated so vividly by

    Shoemaker-Levy’s plunge into Jupiter, that our equilibria are indeed

    punctuated. Species come, they go; we’re just one more. We are awake

    now, we are self-aware. We realize that rulers have no divine rights. We

    know that a secular, plural state has the benefit of putting aside

    factional, tribal, ethnic, and religious strife. We can look at our

    grim, fractious, primate past and see our fratricidal, hierarchical,

    territorial, symbol-soaked nature. We are beginning to have perspective

    on the period of our dawning collective self-awareness and its cognitive

    baby steps: our fawning worship of symbols, words, books, anthropomorphic

    deities, and idols. Wallace’s line, the Jedburgh unconformity, the deep

    space field, the crater at Chicxulub; these are shattering revelations

    for Homo sapiens sapiens. We do know all of this right?

  • Poop on a stick

    2002/12/16 at 10:47 pm

    but aren’t mormons funny?

    i mean come on!

    is OSMOSIS something invented by the OSMONDS or is it some kinda of pyramid scheme????

    Blah blah blah we all got our own problems, I have no representation in the senate or the house…

    Keep up the good fight and KEEP THE MORMONS DOWN!!

    Woops sorry…..


    Kiss kiss

  • Indifferent Boy

    2002/12/16 at 10:49 pm

    Go to church, pray, end up as worm food same as everyone else who doesn’t. Oh, and while we’re at it: Eat well, exercise regularly, die anyways.

  • Skip

    2002/12/16 at 10:54 pm

    Indeed. At least no matter where you come from or who you are, we all still have the commonality that is our fate of becoming an advanced lawn care product being secreted from the back end of an invertibrate. Puts the whole Mormon and religious thing in perspective. At least for me.

  • garrett

    2002/12/16 at 11:14 pm

    It’s really late, which means I’ve lost the ability to be concise. Many apologies in advance.
    For me, it was / is like this… you grow up Mormon (feel free to substitute plenty of other world religions/cultures). After a lifetime of indoctrination, for whatever reason(s) you decide you don’t believe. That’s a long story for another day.
    (Always the critical-thinking skeptic, I also have a hard time agreeing with anything…)
    You go through the processes of leaving, internal & external (or, personal & family/social)… both of which cause varying degrees of discomfort and pain.
    You work your way through all that shit and (for those who end up truly leaving the mindset) finally realize “I’m free!”
    Obviously it will always be a part of what defines you, having spent such a large proportion of your life immersed in that religious culture… but if you worked through it right, that’s a positive thing. You move on and intend to live your life without undue fixation on the whole experience.
    This is hardly a unique story… it happens all over the world in all religions and cultures.
    The great frustration of living in Utah is the ubiquity of Mormonism (and other obnoxious elements of Utah culture). You feel surrounded once again… what you left behind is again in the forefront of your mind.
    From my observation, some people can handle it better than others. If you want to stay here without going insane, you basically have to learn to live with it. As with any place, there’s stuff that sucks and stuff that rocks… focus on the good, like the things you just listed above (how ’bout those sunsets?). I agree completely with Mal and Stan (though I would change “ignore” to “tolerate” in Stan’s post.) Living in Utah will either drive you crazy or help you grow, giving a deeper understanding of tolerance, true activism, and living in a sea of that with which you don’t agree (and which does not agree with you), etc. We’re all humans, drones or not. (On the other hand, catch me in a bad mood and I could rant for hours.)
    During the time I live here, I am determined to live happily and keep my blood pressure at a relatively healthy level. Which means – listen closely, Dooce – avoiding shitty local radio stations and watching the local news only on an occasional basis. Subscribe to the newspaper instead… But whatever you do, don’t read the editorials every day. That’s very bad for blood pressure.
    (And, finally, a quick nod to ChibaCity’s excellent post.)
    I’ll leave you alone now.

  • poopstick

    2002/12/16 at 11:29 pm

    Can you summarize?
    Too long!

    kiss kiss

  • garrett

    2002/12/16 at 11:44 pm

    Yeah, yeah, yeah. I’m never good at soundbites… but that was ridiculously long even for me. How’s this: “I know what it’s like; so do a lot of people. It does suck, but if you find the bright side you’ll be better for it.” OK? I’m going to sleep now…

  • The Pedant

    2002/12/17 at 12:07 am

    Um, I think it’s actually Puddle of Fucking Mudd… with two Ds. You’re giving them too much credit that they can actually spell correctly.

  • HRH

    2002/12/17 at 1:12 am

    Wow. After reading all of these horror stories of indoctrination and dronishness (not a word, I know), I am overcome with gratitude towards my parents for being agnostics who are a-o.k. with my atheism. Dooce, stay strong and do what you know is right. You’re being hard on yourself. You’re tough, you’re an individual and you can challenge those oddly underpanted folks by living your life, your way.

  • Colin

    2002/12/17 at 2:34 am

    Okay, Utah’s got the Mormons. We in Massachusetts are still living under the pall of the Puritans with antiquated laws (called the “blue laws” because they were published in a book with a blue cover). And no-one in the legislature has the balls to change or repeal them.

  • Ex-liontamer

    2002/12/17 at 2:43 am

    …I’ve run out of pithy Latin phrases…

  • EC

    2002/12/17 at 3:03 am

    Bring it on, Dooce. You know, I’ve never really felt the Mor-mans I know (a couple of Mormon men) were any different from anybody else I know. I’ve just always thought of them as recovering alcoholics without the cigarettes and caffine. Seems there is much to learn. Appreciate the education.

  • HurgleGurgle

    2002/12/17 at 4:25 am

    You could join the ACLU. But I don’t remember you asking for our advice.

  • GurgleHurgle

    2002/12/17 at 4:32 am

    The New Yorker: The Talk of the Town The problem, of course, is that niceness is overrated as a virtue. Many cultures are nice. The Southern antebellum aristocracy was marvellously well-mannered; its members left tasteful calling cards, entertained gracefully, and conducted their personal affairs with the utmost discretion. But they had few other virtues; in fact, it was the practice of niceness that helped to keep other values, such as fairness, at bay. Fairness sometimes requires that surfaces be disturbed, that patterns of cordiality be broken, and that people, rudely and abruptly, be removed from their place. Niceness is the enemy of fairness.

  • Miss Mea-Mea

    2002/12/17 at 4:34 am

    Wow, see what you get when you stray from fart and poop jokes. Tons and tons of comments to read.
    I moved 3,000 miles away from my family when I was 18, because I felt that the fight to be what I wanted to be was going to be a losing battle amidst so much family pressure. I loved the West Coast, but as I got older, started feeling as if I should reconcile my differences with the family. So when I was 27, I got the idea that I was grown up enough to do battle and win, and moved back. Har-de-fucking-har-har. Nothing has changed since 1990: same dramas, same bitching and moaning, same shitty attitude.
    My point is that, having experienced something remotely similar, you have my sympathies.

  • pinky

    2002/12/17 at 5:28 am

    Dooce, if you werent already married, you would be going for Ira Glass. He is fucking hot and dreamy as all get out. He gets salad dressing on his glasses when he eats.

  • Sarah B.

    2002/12/17 at 5:46 am

    Back off, ladies. Ira is mine.

  • Dave

    2002/12/17 at 6:01 am

    I appreciate any diatribe of yours, be it about farts or Mormons (interchangable?), but my question is, did the four years of therapy fool you into thinking that in that time period things in Utah would change? Or that in four years, after therapy, you’d be a different version of your former self and would now be able to live there and withstand the rules of the land that one day not so long ago made you flee to the one place in Northern America whose morals oppose everything the Mormon so-called “Church” stands for?

  • Pete

    2002/12/17 at 6:27 am

    Welcome back.

    -a Mormon Democrat.

  • ex southern babtist

    2002/12/17 at 8:36 am

    Most of the time I listen to NPR too.

  • exsouthern babtist

    2002/12/17 at 8:54 am

    I have a tendancy to disagree with a lot of things myself. My father calls it being contrary. Being contrary definitely keeps life amusing. Keep it up. I know I will.

    If I sound grumpy it’s because I am. Ba humbug. The traffic and the people are making me crazy. I’ll be glad when this season is over.

  • Peach

    2002/12/17 at 10:54 am

    I can understand how you feel. But I was lucky enough not to have my head’stuffed’ with religious propaganda when I was young.(good or bad my Dad is an agnostic)
    I do not know a whole lot about the Mormon religion except I believe in some of their practices.(ie helping their people in need)If it was your desire to be back with family and familiarity and friends,then maybe you can live there ‘on your own terms’. I am sure there are other Mormons like you.
    If you find that the whole way of this’following’ is helping you to not heal and you don’t feel peace, I would think that Utah is not the place for you and there are many other options including getting the hell out of there. What is life without peace of mind?

Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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