Under the Iron Sea

Under the Iron Sea is an album by one of my favorite, now unfortunately broken up bands, Keane. Their album cover from their 2006 release is the featured image. The art has always resonated with me, just as the band and their music has. I tried to attend as many live shows as I could when they came to the states from the UK. Their style, presence, and words speak to my experiences. I could say the same for this album cover. Just like all art, different people have different interpretations, but for my part, I see this piece as a band of horses following a resolute master through shaky waters. Sounds encouraging, even inspiring said as simply as this, but in the context of my Mormon background, the art becomes unsettling.

I’m 30 + days into not “behaving” in the ways that I’ve been used to, and for the most part I’ve done exceptionally well. All of my girls are set up with a psychiatrist, I am trying a new medication to stabilize my mood a bit, and my husband is still being amazingly supportive, but, as always, there is something creeping underneath that hasn’t been fully dealt with.

A while back, when I worked at my old, toxic workplace, a coworker of mine tried to mingle with me about a book by Jon Krakauer called “Under the Banner of Heaven”. He came from a Catholic background and was enthralled with the book. I had heard of it when I was still devoutly Mormon, as it was demonized as expressly anti-Mormon literature. Since officially exiting the church in 2007, however, I brushed off any conversation about it because hearing about fundamentalist Mormonism and such histories as the Mountain Meadows Massacre, fundamentalist leaders like Tom Green and Warren Jeffs, and the history of Joseph Smith and the church as a whole seemed about as fun as sitting in three hours of church every Sunday for 25 years of my life as I had already done.

I must’ve been subconsciously ruminating about it, though, because it’s a little over a year later and I’m currently listening to the unabridged audiobook on every solo car drive, completely captivated by stories that I didn’t even know existed: The Lafferty Brothers and their unconscionable murder of a mother and her child of their own relation, the betrayal of John D. Lee by Brigham Young, the depth of the Blood Atonement and how far paranoid Mormons were willing to go to keep things quiet in the name of protecting their religion, let alone the endless sexual abuse and exploitation of minors, including incestuous relationships “annointed” by God. I have 38 minutes left to listen to, and one main take away:

This religion has made me one very unique person, with very unique hurdles that I have had to overcome and continue to overcome after being led “willingly” by prophets, leaders, teachers, and family that all believed we were a band of horses in shaky waters following a resolute master under the banner of heaven. 

It makes so much sense now. Our extended family was not a mainstream Mormon family. Ours was a quasi fundamentalist family in disguise, and the trickle down effects of their dysfunction landed on my well-intentioned mother who did her very best to provide a loving home given her circumstances of witnessing and being a victim of every type of abuse. 

My grandfather who had multiple affairs during his career as a pilot no doubt justified his relationships as taking on spiritual wives. The children he had with these women – seeds to multiply and replenish the earth. His son, who sexually assaulted “M” for 12 years to “teach” her (see Displaced Little Girl) was not a pedophile, it must’ve been okay in some sick, godly way. Oh, and let’s not forget Chuck, my other uncle who is the biological father of “M” who actually did join a fundamentalist group, took on multiple wives, thought he was the reincarnation of Joseph Smith, and sent his siblings his own prophecies on multiple occasions, up to and including predicting the deaths of certain “evil” family members. 

I could go on and on, but I’ll end with this:

I won’t ever apologize to anyone ever again for what I struggle with. Ever. This is my history, and it’s part of who I am whether I like it or not. It is what I have to deal with. Another puzzle piece to face and figure out how to fit into who I am currently. I am no longer the Mormon girl I was: Afraid to speak up, listen to “unworthy music”, watch R-rated movies, drink coffee, alcohol, or do anything outside of the perfectly outlined square that Mormonism wanted me to color within. 

A decade of deprogramming and it’s still not fully done. I have a long way to go. The pendulum has to find its middle ground. 

I still struggle with rejection, abandonment, and self-worth. I always have. I have always been sensitive, and introspective about things that I can improve upon. The only difference now is that I’m attempting to build up enough of a back bone to give myself a break when I’m not 100% perfect, as Mormonism calls for. 

I am not a guru, I am not always “up” or “on” or “ready to go” or, as the Mormons put it, “anxiously engaged in a good cause”. That’s not me, especially in the context of my Mormon experience and alienation from it. 

What I am is enduring, and if people are willing to work with me while I go on this trek, just as the pioneers did from the Midwest to Utah, that’s an amazing gift. If not, peace be unto them –

I will always miss them. 

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