The first 38 years of my life I thought “Lamanites” were an actual real thing. I was taught that my mom was a direct descendant of Lehi, and that I was through her. Even as I struggled through each bit of information I learned about church history – it took months before I gave much thought to the “Lamanite” issues. It was almost as if I couldn’t deal with any of it because of how much pain it had always caused. A few months after I turned 39 I finally accepted the problems surrounding the church’s truth claims and began the painful decision of leaving the church. Acceptance didn’t happen in a day or week, acceptance of real history and facts took me months. I would read the same information over and over, as if I needed to make sure – repeatedly. I couldn’t believe my own logical mind.
I remember feeling like I was shaking on the inside as I talked to my husband. I paced a lot, like if I sat still I would burst. I was so scared to let go of the only life I had ever known. However I could not live a lie. My husband was brave even though it hurt him, he was determined. I almost regretted showing him the essays and true history on the church’s web site – in those strange moment that I wanted to just stay in the church regardless of the truth.
Nothing, and I mean nothing, would have ever made me leave the church if it was true. People were rude to me often through my life, but that would never stop me from going. I often doubted my worth for a number of reasons, skin and heritage only being one of them. Still, I stayed faithful. We struggled financially due to pressures with tithing and single income. Yet I hung The Family Proclamation on my wall, and any time I struggled I would read it and faithfully base my decisions on the teachings.
There is little I share of my early life with others because of how traumatic much of it was. However the one thing that I held on to tightly was the church. It was everything to me. Learning the truth of everything and that I was lied to about history was devastating. I know leaving is different for everyone, for me it was like someone close to me died and took part of me with them. I suddenly felt like I had nothing to depend on in life. Though I had my husband and children, it was like my own foundation had been ripped from me. I found the song The Wise Man Built His House Upon The Rock suddenly very ironic. Mormonism is built upon sand.
I remember working through the pain of it all. One day I would think “I feel awesome today, so glad that is over!” Literally thinking I wouldn’t have any more anxiety and that I would start living again. Only to feel like crap the next day. Picture Rapunzel on steroids. lol I never journaled much as a member, but I journaled the process of leaving. Yet another thing I find ironic. The one thing that stands out when I read my emotionally scribbled notes was when I explained to my husband why I could no longer be a member. The day I realized my Grandma, my heritage, and people, had all been taken from me by a lie. A lie I accepted. One that said they were bad (or at least they were wrong) and the church was good. My heritage…
I have often said skin issues are separate from heritage. Skin is a characteristic, a trait, something beautiful and defining. Heritage is who I am. The pain of not knowing who I was (honestly still working on that) was intense. The confusion that surrounded that single question is extremely hard to describe. I had been betrayed by my Mormon heritage, and I had betrayed my Tsimshian heritage.
So what is heritage? Naturally I looked up definitions. I liked the Collins English Dictionary definitions.
- Anything that has been transmitted from the past or handed down by tradition.
- The evidence of the past.
- Something inherited at birth, such as personal characteristics, status, and possessions.
In the past few months of researching for this blog I have learned one new and disturbing fact. The church doesn’t identify “Lamanites” as literal descendants, it is a cultural identification. The reason: through their own research and DNA specialists they have found no Lehi connection. They say “maybe” to literal descendants existing, but don’t consider it in labeling people “Lamanites.” It is irrelevant.
By definition in the dictionary heritage is evidence of the past. Evidence of the real past of the people of North America, South America, and the Pacific Islands are in abundance, however they do not support the Mormon narrative. The traditions of many have been taken, the narrative has been taken, and even the inherited birth and personal characteristics has been twisted and claimed within the Mormon narrative.
We do not live in the same world we did just 30 years ago. Knowledge has changed. With this growth I hope the church too will change. We cannot change past mistakes, but we can be brave and honorable in the here and now. Honesty should not just be an idea or something to reach for. It should be something we live.
- Collins English Dictionary – Complete & Unabridged 2012 Digital Edition
William Collins Sons & Co. Ltd. HarperCollins. Web 27 September 2017.
- Children’s Songbook. LDS.org. Web 27 September 2017.