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Monica Bielanko
A chronicle since 2005 of my marriage & move to Brooklyn in my twenties; becoming a mother in my thirties; moving to Pennsylvania and learning to amicably coparent after divorce in my forties while living 3 doors down from my ex-husband in a small country town.
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Monday
Mar052007

Girls' Guide To Mormonism

“Ask no questions and we’ll tell you no lies.”



1. You shall not engage in pre-marital sex. Ever! Repress all sexual urges you whore, you. Sex is strictly on a procreation type basis.

2. You shall know that oral and ass sex is not considered sex. Just don’t tell your Bishop.

3. You shall never, ever masturbate. (See below)

4. You shall not wear skirts that do not graze your kneecaps. Ankle length, long sleeved, floral print dresses adorned with enormous lace collars and thick, white, nurse tights are the ideal.

5. You shall know that, for the love of God, no tank tops. Capped sleeves? You are cutting that fabric close, Sister. And NO bare midriffs! (God was horrified by most styles circa 1997)

6. Shit. First page and I already fucked up one of the commandments. Nonetheless, you shall also know that you shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.

7. Neither shall you wear bikinis. Jesus! Do I even need to say it? Bikinis were designed by the devil and debuted as a part of his spring collection in 1946!

8. You shall not drink coffee or tea. And if you’re a really good Mormon you’ll forego that nasty Diet Coke habit too! Five cans a day… repent, baby!

9. You shall know that upon your marriage in The Temple at the age of 20 or younger you shall engage in uncomfortable sex for the first time and ever after for the sole purpose of birthing as many babies as humanly possible.

10. You shall also know that if you reach the age of 25 and you aren’t married to a return missionary - buy a cat. You are an old maid.

**The following on masturbation was in a tract widely disseminated throughout the Mormon church as I was growing up. I think I posted it on this blog somewhere before but its so insane it's worth the repetition.

“If you are associated with other persons having this same problem (masturbation), you must break off their friendship. Never associate with other people having the same weakness...You must get away from people of that kind.

When you bathe, do not admire yourself in a mirror. Never stay in the bath more than five or six minutes. Then GET OUT OF THE BATHROOM AND GO INTO ANOTHER ROOM WHERE YOU ARE NOT ALONE.

If the temptation seems overpowering while you are in bed, GET OUT OF BED AND GO INTO THE KITCHEN AND FIX YOURSELF A SNACK, even if it is in the middle of the night, and even if you are not hungry, and despite your fears of gaining weight.

KEEP THE PROBLEM OUT OF YOUR MIND BY NOT MENTIONING IT EVER - NOT IN CONVERSATION WITH OTHERS, NOT IN YOUR PRAYERS, KEEP IT OUT of your mind!...

-A Book Of Mormon, firmly held in hand, even in bed at night has proven helpful...

-In very severe cases it may be necessary to tie a hand to the bed frame with a tie in order that the habit of masturbating in a semi-sleep condition can be broken..."


Sanctified insanity. That’s what it is. Sanctified by whom, you may ask. They say God. Sanctified by God. Who is “they” you might also be inclined to ask. My short answer would be Mormons. But that one word contains generations of brainwashing and confusion that most will never reveal quite simply because they don’t believe they were brainwashed. Or they doubt, but fear the reaction of true believers. Religion is a strange animal. A supreme comfort in times of distress at one moment, a snarling beast that ignites war the next. The extremely religious Mormon is more inclined to cop to grievous sins than admit a lack of belief. That’s because to speak against the Mormon God is perceived as the worst sin of all. And so they soldier on, proclaiming to be members of the only true church on the planet.

The Mormons. Technically, I am still a Mormon. My name is certainly typed neatly into a record book somewhere. A record book filed deep within the bowels of church headquarters in Salt Lake City. Name, rank, last known address. Each time I move, they always find me. Within a few weeks at any new address Sisters, as the women of the church are addressed, show up at my doorstep, calling me by name (Sister Butler) and bearing brownies or Rice Krispie treats.

Hi. My name is Monica Bielanko and I am a recovering Mormon. Like alcoholism, Mormonism is passed down from generation to generation. Although the potential for Mormonism doesn’t dwell within genes, it may as well. When one is taught a specific set of rules that govern Earth, Life, Death, Heaven, Hell, what you eat, what you drink, what you think, where you should send money – when one has been repeatedly told these things since one was old enough to hold one’s head aloft, when one has been taught to memorize sentences, scriptures, prayers, songs - does one really have a fair shot at thinking for oneself? And much like a recovering alcoholic, how do you fill your life when you finally manage to wrestle free from the source of your trouble, which also happened to be a source of great comfort? More specifically, how does one fill the spiritual void left in the wake of a formerly fulfilling religion?

Are Mormons really as weird as society would have you believe? Yes. And no. Now, with the perspective that time and distance always provides, now that my anger at the religion of my childhood is subsiding, I can quite clearly see what great community-minded folks the Mormons are. And I can quite clearly see how ignorantly bonkers some of the beliefs and rituals of Mormonism truly are. I mean, no coffee? How would we survive? World productivity alone would depress to an economical slump of epic proportions. Tea, you say? Not so fast. The Church’s Word of Wisdom specifies no hot drinks.

The Word of Wisdom is a sketchy “revelation” - a list of dos and donts Church creator Joseph Smith dreamed up back in the day to keep Mormons on the straight and narrow, or his version of it, anyway. No official member in the Church is worthy to hold an office if he fails to obey the Word of Wisdom.

The Word of Wisdom is Big Time. Each time a member visits with his/her Bishop one of the first questions asked is “are you complying with the Word of Wisdom.” Growing up Mormon meant not being familiar with coffee. At all. Tea? Isn’t that something rich British people drink with pinkies at attention? Alcohol was completely off the radar. Anyone drinking alcohol, even wine, might as well have been a heroine junkie in my eyes. That’s something bad people A.K.A non-members do.

The Word of Wisdom has been redefined time and time again as new health studies reveal findings that do or don’t jive with what Smith outlined in the Book of Mormon. However, some Church leaders conveniently state that God has not revealed why some things have and have not been prohibited under the Word of Wisdom. They use this same line, by the way, when explaining why African Americans weren’t allowed in the church until 19-fucking-77).

These church leaders and publicists suggest that the reasons behind the World of Wisdom and other Church “revelations” will not become known for some time. Some have further stated that the primary purpose of the Word of Wisdom is, like all commandments, for spiritual benefits; and like some other commandments, earthly benefits are merely incidental.

Even though the revelation denounces the consumption of “hot drinks" the Mormon Church today interprets this to mean drinks that contain caffeine. In other words, the emphasis is no longer on whether the drink is hot or cold, but rather how much caffeine it contains.

It would appear, however, that in the early history of the Church all hot drinks were forbidden. On April 7, 1868, the Mormon Apostle George Q. Cannon stated that chocolate drinks and hot soups were forbidden: "We are told, and very plainly too, that hot drinks--tea, coffee, chocolate, cocoa and all drinks of this kind are not good for man....we must feed our children properly.... We must not permit them to drink liquor or hot drinks, or hot soups or to use tobacco or other articles that are injurious." (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 12, pp. 221 & 223)

God says NO HOT CHOCOLATE! OR SOUP! Obviously, to most rational folks, those notions are ridiculous. Therein lays the problem with the Mormon religion, or any religion, for that matter. Religion and rationale are opposites. Many of the other ideologies the Mormon Church is founded on (ahem, polygamy anyone?) are just as ridiculous but the Church has been able to flex with the changing times and keep unsavory secrets locked in the basements of their million dollar office buildings.

Much as their decision to denounce polygamy and later allow African Americans into the church because of the changes in society, the Church’s decision to spin the Word of Wisdom into a caffeine thing, as opposed to a hot drink thing created such furor! When I was coming of age in the Mormon capital of the universe, Utah County, there was a huge flap over the consumption of cola drinks. Droves of heaven seeking Mormons immediately gave up their Coke and Pepsi.
“You know, because of the caffeine,” they’d righteously utter while casting disgusted looks at your sinful can of Coke. The Caffeine Swillers among us were demoted to very nearly Coffee Drinker status and enterprising young wives began spiking Kool-Aid with Seven-Up as a delicious alternative. For example, an article in the Church's Improvement Era condemned the drinking of cola drinks. It stated that a large bottle of cola drink contained approximately the same amount of caffeine as a cup of coffee. If it’s a caffeine thing - why the ban against coffee and not cola? If it’s a hot drink thing – why is hot cocoa okay and not coffee? Oh the drama! The fiery debates about who could drink what and who would land themselves in the fiery pits of hell!

Okay so in summary:
Sex – BAD (unless procreating)
Coffee – NO
Tea - a tricky one. But, generally, if it contains caffeine – NO
Cola drinks – some Mormons say NO and some say YES.
Hot Chocolate – YES!
So It IS a caffeine thing. Although caffeine was never mentioned in the original Word of Wisdom. Gather ‘round gang! Let’s go out for hot cocoa and celebrate!

Although the Church so vociferously inserted itself into the debate over hot drinks and caffeine, it largely ignores the Word of Wisdom rule that states that meat should only be eaten in times of winter, or of cold or famine. Strange, isn’t it? How some portions of Joseph Smith's Word of Wisdom are stressed by the Mormon leaders, other portions are almost ignored.

“And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones; and shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures; and shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint. And I, the Lord, give unto them a promise, that the destroying angel shall pass by them, as the children of Israel, and not slay them. Amen.”