Caged: Growing Up A Mormon Girl
Kate Kelly, leader of the Ordain Women organization, was formally excommunicated from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, more commonly referred to as the Mormon Church. Kate Kelly’s crime was to start an organization that requested that the Mormon authorities pray about the idea of women being granted the priesthood. Now she is branded an apostate, with all of the intense social stigma that goes along with the name.
After hearing the news of Kelly’s formal excommunication, I have been experiencing a host of bewildering emotions. When I first heard about the upcoming excommunication hearings, I felt indifferent. I stopped believing in Mormonism thirteen years ago. Why would I care about a church that I walked away from? And yet, my heart broke at the news of Kate Kelly’s excommunication. Why? Why does this affect me so much?
I guess I am heart-broken because I remember growing up female within the Mormon Church. Simply put, growing up a female within Mormonism felt like being trapped in a small cage with walls that were slowly closing in. My entire life was dictated to me. I was expected to marry a worthy Mormon man, give birth to a large Mormon family, and give up my hopes and dreams to stay at home to rear these children. I was taught that to forsake a Mormon marriage and children would deny me access to the highest tier of Heaven. Anything more – any more hopes, any more dreams – were deemed to be unnatural and unwomanly. I could dream of an education – but only so that I could meet the right husband and learn to “be a better mother.” I wasn’t allowed to dream of an unmarried life or a career.
I tried to be a good Mormon girl, to feel happy about the future that was mapped out for me. And yet, as much as I tried to squelch these dreams, I couldn’t. I wanted to explore and to learn and to dream. I wanted a larger life. I wanted to learn about science and art and people and all the crazy beautiful things that this life has to offer. I wanted to meet people who were different from me. I wanted to learn their stories. Most of all, I wanted to live the life that I was meant to live, not the life that the Mormon faith wanted me to live.
Trying to fit myself into the future expected of me brought me to the brink of despair. My teenage years were a maelstrom of self-loathing and self-destruction. Looking back, some of my self-destructive tendencies were probably a result of not being able to live up to the expectations placed upon me as a Mormon girl.
But then I started to question. I was terrified at first, convinced that my questions were the result of a sinful nature. I tried to suppress the questions. But that didn’t work and soon enough I mustered up the courage to leave.
Leaving was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made. It was also the best decision I have ever made. After leaving, I have gone on to live a life that has surpassed every wild dream I ever had as a Mormon girl. I have studied science and music and writing. I have trained as a geneticist and as a jazz musician and as an essayist. I have left my footprints behind in some of the most beautiful places imaginable. I ended up marrying a smart funny open-minded mathematician in a traditional Hindu wedding ceremony in India. His family has accepted me, in spite of the fact that we do not share either a common religion or culture. I live a life that would have been impossible as a Mormon girl – and I find this life to be incredible.
So why am I so upset about Kate Kelly’s excommunication? I am upset because I remember what it felt like to be a Mormon girl. I remember feeling trapped and alone. I remember dreading the future that was ahead of me. I don’t want any more girls to grow up that way. I want a better future for the Mormon girls that come after me. I want for them to grow up with a world of possibilities. And so I stand with Kate Kelly, in the hopes that she will continue to advocate for a better future for Mormon women.
In closing, I would like to impart a message to the Mormon authorities responsible for Kelly's excommunication. My message is as follows:
Shame on you, Mormon authorities, for being so cowardly that you can’t even stomach the thought of a woman asking for a right that you take for granted. Shame on you for squelching the actions of a woman who wanted to make your church a better, friendlier place. I see nothing Christlike or good about your actions, in spite of your continual claims that you possess the power of divine revelation.
Kate Kelly is a far better person than you will ever be.
Rachel Velamur is the author of the blog "A Post-Mormon Life", where she writes about what life was like as a Mormon and what her life is like after leaving the Mormon Church.