Rebecka Lee Radford Franklin
I know now that have been wrong about a lot of things. I know now that I could have handled things better than I did. There are days when I regret my bad choices and other days when I am glad I made my mistakes. I get through a lot of hard times with humor and sometimes I am the only one who thinks it is funny. Because of that I have accidentally offended when I meant to cheer up. I use to feel guilty about many things, but now the guilt is gone. The Real Truth had set me free.
I guess the best way for me to start talking about myself is to begin with explaining about my parents, and their parents, because a lot of who I was, and who I have become is based in my ancestry.
My dad was born to Pearl and Frank Radford, the youngest of 4 boys. Frank had a brother named Roy that was married to Ida Mae and they had 3 boys and 2 girls. Frank passed away when my dad was 4. Ida Mae passed away also and Pearl and Roy got married, joined their families, and had one more boy. My dad always stressed that everyone is family and that when his parents joined the families there were no cousins or step siblings, they were all brothers and sisters. Dad touted the success of their blended family with the proof being that his little sister who was 2 at the time that the families were joined had no idea which child belonged to which couple. They tested her when she became a teenager and she got quite upset that she only got one right and that was knowing her little brother was a half brother. That led her to get into genealogy and subsequently by asking my help with computers and photoshop got me interested also.
I would like to mention also that Pearl’s parents were Dan and Tillie Tyler. They purchased land in Ucon Idaho that they dubbed the “Need More Ranch” because it needed more of everything except rocks. Pearl and Frank helped run the ranch and their 4 boys were all born there. Dad’s mother was, and that makes me also, a direct descendent of Daniel Tyler and John Pulsipher. Both men had written in their journals of their personal experiences with Joseph Smith Jr. Daniel Tyler asked that the first born boy in his direct line be named after him. We now have 8 generations of Daniel Tylers. (Daniel the 8th is 21 years old) And on Roy and Frank’s side was John Whitlock Radford who’s first wife divorced him on grounds of insanity because he joined the Mormon church and moved to Nauvoo. All of these families followed Brigham Young out west. John Whitlock had settled many communities around Utah and started one right here in Etna, Wy. about 4 miles directly west of my house. My parents didn’t know this at the time that they chose to buy property here. We found out much later. John Whitlock Radford died during the first winter that they were in Wyoming along with all of their livestock. The families only survived because of the deer and elk that they hunted. Come spring they all packed up and moved to Ririe Idaho. I don’t blame them! Winter here is rough!
My dad and his family were inseparable and they all were wonderful story tellers, which is why I know so much about my Radford/Tyler side. Through them I learned by example. They may have had strong connections to the early church but that wasn’t important, it was nothing more than just a cool fact. Church activity wasn’t something you did because God or the church told you to. It was something that the community came together to do to socialize and to help one another.
In contrast my mother came from a broken home and told me many stories over the years of how she and her brother and sister were treated by her step mother who placed an extreme amount of value on becoming high up in the ranks of the church, and took it out on these 3 kids when she didn’t get her expectations met. So here is mom’s background.
Leo Parkinson married Leona Cherry and they had 3 kids my mom is the oldest then her sister and then her brother. Not long after my uncle was born they divorced. I know that Leona was the bread winner and was very unhappy with Leo being on the lazy side. She had gone to her bishop and asked him what would happen to her temple sealing to her children if she divorced Leo. He told her that the children would remain sealed to Leo and that she would never be able to see them in the eternities and that she basically needed to suck it up and stay married. This pissed her off. She just couldn’t take it with Leo anymore and she divorced him and asked to have her name removed from the church. She then started harboring a nasty hatred towards the church. At first Leona had custody of the kids. She got remarried to a man named Dex, and on the same day one year later Leo married a woman named Eldora. Leona and Dex had 3 more kids, and Leo and Eldora had 5.
Mom had a rough childhood. When she was 7 years old, due to circumstances beyond my mother’s control, mom and her sister and brother were taken away from their mother and given to Leo and Eldora to be raised. My mom always blamed herself for this. She remembered a judge that asked her who she wanted to live with and she said “both my mommy and daddy.” He told her that wasn’t possible and because she was afraid of Dex, she chose her father. That broke Leona’s heart and led to more harbored hatred between the two sides.
Eldora didn’t like the fact that her husband had been married before her and she took a lot of her frustrations out on my mom and her brother and sister. Eldora wanted to be a bishops wife and move up the ranks of the church. She wanted Leo to be at least a general authority if not higher. Every time their ward was reorganized and Leo was not called as the new bishop, Eldora would blame Leo’s first 3 kids as being the problem, as though the fact that Leo had been married before and had 3 kids was what prevented him form getting the calling. Every time this happened Eldora decided it was time to move somewhere else and start again. They moved a total of 36 times in 50 years. As mom and her brother and sister got older and Eldora started having her own children it became very clear that they were the only there to serve Eldora. Mom’s sister ran away at 14 because she couldn’t take it anymore. At that point mom had met dad and he promised her that if she was patient and didn’t run away like her sister did, he would marry her and get her out of that house, which he did as soon as he could. My poor uncle told my mom later that he felt that he had been left “alone in the torture chamber”.
Now you know a bit about where I come from. As a younger adult I would read my ancestor’s journals and they were cool, but I never felt a connection to them through their journals. As I tried to develop a testimony of the church as a teenager I found that the only thing I could truthfully say was that if these great men in my family believed in the church, and if I am descended from good people like I believed I was, then this church must be true. As I go back and read some of these journal entries my mind is a bit more blown as far as their interactions with Joseph Smith Jr. go. Instead of gaining a testimony of the
church being true, I have instead gained a testimony of True Messengers and that they know some things!
I guess that brings me to my own mom and dad, Rex and Linda Radford.
Mom met dad in Arco Idaho. My dad’s family lived there and mom’s dad (Leo) was moving to Jameston Idaho and had left his kids with his mother who also lived in Arco. At the time my dad was dating my mother’s aunt. Mom’s uncle knew that my mom would be staying with them for a couple days and talked my dad, who he worked with, into taking her to the dance. At first dad didn’t want to do that because he was being set up with his friends niece, who was also his girlfriends niece and he didn’t think it was good idea. But dad sees a car pull up while he is working in a ditch and it is my mom’s uncle with his sister, (dad’s girlfriend) and mom sitting in the backseat. One look at my mom and dad said, “Gimme a minute while I go get cleaned up and I will come with you!” They go to the dance that night and the next night. When it comes time for mom to leave to go to her new home and she was distraught thinking that she would never see dad again. He said to her, “Just wait for me. I will find you. I promise.” After 2 weeks he couldn’t stop thinking about
mom and decided it was time to take a road trip to find her. All he knew was that they moved to Jameston Idaho and that her dad was a school teacher. He decided to start at the school and just drive around for clues on where she might be. When he got to the school, there was mom sitting on a swing on the playground. She saw him pull up and she ran and launched herself into his arms. When dad started courting mom he had to meet her father. Turns out that mom’s dad, Leo, was “Mr. Parkinson” my dad’s eighth grade teacher when he lived in Twin Falls Idaho, and the reason that my dad’s ears were so big! Dad said that he was always in so much trouble with Mr. Parkinson that he would pull my dad by his ear out of class to discipline him. Leo was not happy about that trouble maker marrying his daughter and pushed dad to his limits figuratively and literally to try and get dad to lose it, and give him a reason to not let him marry his daughter. Dad was extremely patient for the sake of my mom.
Dad was a joker. He took advantage of my mom’s sweet and naive nature. He was a hero to her for saving her from a life of mental and emotional abuse. Dad had a scar on his right hand. Mom asked him how he got that scar and he told her that he had been walking down the street once and looked down an ally and saw a little old lady being mugged at gun point. He rushed to save her from her assailant. He got to her at the same time that the gun went off and he was able to reach out and grab the bullet in mid air before it hit the lady and it left that scar. Mom was so impressed! She had no reason to doubt him! Later on Mom was doing dishes with dad’s mom (Pearl) and mentioned how brave Rex was and how proud she must be of her son. Pearl laughed and asked what she meant. Mom relayed the story. Pearl took a deep breath and said we need to talk! She told my mom, “Don’t believe anything that comes out of the mouth of a Radford!” And then she went and had a talk with dad and told him something to the effect of, You just created an image of yourself as Superman in her mind. Don’t you dare disappoint her!
Dad knew how important the church was to mom because she didn’t know anything else. Dad’s faith was strong but he didn’t have any problems with enjoying life whether the church approved or not. Dad’s way of proposing to mom was to empty some whiskey jugs and refill them with apple juice, borrow his brothers corvette and act drunk while taking her for a ride. He got down on one knee and gave her a cigar band as an engagement ring. She burst into tears and started walking home. He had to practically carry her back to the car so he could prove that it was apple juice and produce a real ring from the trunk of the car. He realized that he better straighten up and make sure he was able to give her the temple marriage and life she wanted if he wanted to be her husband. By the way, she always kept the cigar band in her jewelry box, which now is safe with me.
On their honeymoon mom and dad went on a road trip. Part of their road trip took them through Star Valley Wy. They fell in love with the area and made it a goal to eventually buy property here. Dad’s work took him all over the country. He was an engineer and architect and got major jobs all over the place even though he never went to college. Everywhere they lived they made lifelong friends. Mom was always the housewife that had dinner ready for dad when he got home from work.
After a few years of marriage and no babies they decided to adopt. They went through church services and found a bishop in South Dakota that knew of a young girl in trouble that had tried to miscarry by throwing herself down a flight of stairs late in her pregnancy. She didn’t lose the baby but he was born with lots of medical problems and was not expected to survive the night. They rushed to the hospital where the bishop told them that they didn’t have to adopt him because he may not live long. My parents insisted. They filled out the adoption paperwork and asked the bishop to help so they could give him a name and a blessing. In the blessing the bishop said that “this child will live long enough for you to get to know him.” Steven lived, though he struggled and was in and out of hospitals, my parents loved him. Everyone loved him. He was never able to walk on his own or be potty trained, but he did indeed live long enough for my parents to get to know him.
A year later that same bishop reached out to my parents and said he had another young mother in trouble and wondered if they would be interested in adopting another baby. This is how my brother was adopted. 4 years later my parents adopted my sister and they thought they had their family. My brother was not happy about getting a little sister. When they told him they were on their way to go get her, he jumped out of the moving car and tried to run away. A year after that, Steven lost his brain functions and was declared brain dead however his body continued to function. He lived an additional 10 years in a nursing home before his body finally died.
A few years before Steven died, one of the 12 Apostles happened to be in the hospital visiting patients and giving blessings to them. He gave Steven a blessing and then turned to my mom and said it was her turn. Mom was surprised by this as she had not asked for one. She was blessed to be “given a child of her own flesh and blood.” Both my mom and dad were shocked by this because they had both been tested and found that neither of them were very fertile. But low and behold, 16 years after my parents were married and 7 years after my sister, I was born. Yep! I am a freakin’ miracle and a blessing from God! (tongue in cheek!) And that Apostle? He was LaGrande Richards, the man who wrote the book titled “A Marvelous Work and A Wonder” back in the 1950’s. Holy Shit Huh? The irony is amazing! When we are told that our true selves have a sense of humor that is what I think of! That and the horn falling out of Moroni’s hands on the Salt Lake temple during an earthquake!
My earliest memory is of going to some church where my parents were busy and told me to be good and don’t run. I didn’t listen and I was running with a kid I didn’t know and he got hurt and started to cry. I was conflicted because I felt bad for him, but I didn’t want to get in trouble, so I ran and hid. After a while no one came looking for me so I carefully made my way back inside the church only to find that no one even noticed that I was gone. I use to feel so much guilt from that! I was only about 3, maybe 4 at the time. When I was 8 and getting baptized they promised me that my “sins would be forgotten”. Boy was I excited to forget that memory of disobeying and that kid getting hurt. When I came up out of the water I could still remember it and I thought that my baptism didn’t work because I had not forgotten my sin. That shows how naive I was.
Growing up in this small town I felt the clear division between my family and everyone else. We were not from here. We were outsiders. My Dad worked in Salt Lake City during the week and then would come home to Etna on Friday nights and then leave Sunday nights to go back to Salt Lake. Dad built our house on the weekends anddid not go to church because of how limited his time at home was. This was more excuse to look down on my family. In 1983 my dad’s shop and office burned down because of my uncle’s discarded cigarette that rolled into a pile of saw dust. Our bishop said it was punishment from God for not going to church. I didn’t understand it at the time, but I was witnessing my parent’s own cognitive dissonance when it came to the church. I even remember my dad joking when the boys came around to collect fast offerings that they were coming to get our “membership fees”. I thought it was funny, until I looked at my mom and she was giving him a look that said “Don’t you dare!” That look just made dad laugh harder which then put a grin on my mom’s face. I was learning from them that the gospel and the church were two separate things and through the years I watched them not let what the other members of the church do or say affect how or what they believed the truth to be. Mom was very active in the humanitarian efforts at church, but she only went to sacrament meeting and Relief Society on Sunday just enough to keep her temple recommend which was once a month.
These upstanding members of the church made it very difficult on my mom and dad. Dad had to fight for decades to get water rights. Many of the people in our community eventually were won over by my parents as they were nice to everyone, but a few still hated them. Every year brought a different lawsuit against mom and dad over water rights. I remember a dead cow was placed in our drinking water in hopes that we would all get sick and move. One man had become good friends with my dad and overheard his neighbor bragging of what he had done. This friend told dad that he better walk the creek in case it was true and sure enough they found a dead cow. This friend that helped my dad lost his own water rights to the creek as a result of trying to help my dad get water rights. My dad won every lawsuit but that didn’t stop them from bringing another one the next year.
I have wonderful memories of growing up where I did. I got to explore the 40 acres that my dad bought that bordered the national forest. I would often jump the fence to the neighbors and go explore the boy scout cabin that was built near the gate to the elk fence that was access to the forest. This was a cabin with no doors and no windows. Just 4 walls and a roof. I remember thinking that boy scouts can’t be very smart if they don’t know that they need at least a door! I spent a lot of time inside my own imagination as a kid, usually reenacting movies and giving my self my own role in those movies. I remember singing and making up my own songs and recording them on a tape recorder while my brother a sister were at school. I had a lot of freedom as a kid and I was happy. And then I started school. The kids at school were very much like their parents.
There are a lot of things that bothered me about school. I felt an obvious bias from the teachers towards certain kids in my class. I didn’t fit in at all with anyone and I didn’t feel like any of them were nice people. In 1st grade I remember a bully that was causing problems. One particular day this kid pushed me to the ground and laughed at me. I just got up and went to my desk. When the teacher came in to start the class she got our attention and announced that if this bully had hurt us that day then we were to come up front and line up. A couple kids went to the front. I stayed at my desk. Then she asked the bully to come up front and she put him over her knee. She then asked the class again if any one had been bullied by him that day they need to come and get in line to take turns spanking him. The entire rest of the class got up and got in line. I still remained at my desk and just watched in horror as she produced a paddle with holes drilled in it and allowed every kid one turn to smack him in the butt. One girl in particular was trying to get the best swing that she could. When they were done the teacher gave him 5 more of her own and sent him to his desk. I felt so bad for him. I watched him cry and I wanted to cry with him. That event has bothered me for many years. He didn’t come back to school after a while. I always wondered about him and where he ended up.
I remember in the 3rd grade one kid was going around and asking what religion we all were. I didn’t know! Fearing ridicule because of not knowing I just pointed to the red building across the road and said I went to that one. He said ok you’re a Mormon and moved on the next kid. That was the first time I had ever been told what my religion was called. I found out later that the reason he did that was because most of the kids in our class were in his ward and he knew them. There were 2 boys and 3 girls in my ward in our class and the boys all got along fine but the girls in the other ward for the most part wanted nothing to do with us 3 girls. However the other 2 girls had dance classes and gymnastics with the other girls so they were tolerated. There was one kid named Justin that was Baptist and shortly after the other kid went around asking our religions, Justin’s parents pulled all their kids out of school. When we got to high school Justin started coming back to school and we would ride the same bus. We were good friends on the bus, but not at school. He became quite popular and I was still a wallflower. But I am getting ahead of myself.
The 5th grade was the first time I had a real friend. Chandi came to my house a lot and I went to hers. She was not LDS and that seemed to affect how the other girls treated her. They liked her but didn’t allow her in their clique. I loved her! She was so nice to me and didn’t care about me being outcast by the other girls. Sadly she only lived here one year. This is the year that I learned a huge lesson about how unfair the world was. Our 5th grade teacher was trying to teach us about the events leading up to the Revolutionary War. He made us play a game that lasted for weeks that had some of us be regular people like farmers and blacksmiths and some of us were land owners. After school he would rig the game so that the land owners kept getting richer and the poor remained poor. This would have been a very good lesson to learn had our teacher not made one major error in his rigging of the game. All of the popular kids from the other ward, his ward, were the rich kids, and all the poor kids were the kids in my ward. To add to the problem, whether it was on purpose or not the cat got out of the bag that he was rigging the game in favor of these popular kids. We were very hurt and angry. We didn’t make the connection that he was trying to teach us about how the penniless settlers felt with the rich British loyalists, but we definitely felt the class division in our own class! This is about the same time that I remember going to church and listening to a lesson about how you can’t go to the celestial kingdom unless you have been baptized. I thought of my brother Steven who was brain dead at 6 and never baptized before he died at 16. I started to feel like everything was a bunch of bull shit. How could my brother not go to the celestial kingdom? I started to feel like the people teaching us this stuff didn’t know what they were talking about.
Going into 6th grade my parents started seeing that I looked funny. I had one shoulder and one hip that was higher than the other and when I bent over I had what looked like a Quasimodo style hump. This didn’t help how the others in my class treated me. I was only teased worse. Turns out I had severe Scoliosis. A double curve.
My spine was shaped like an “S” and it was about to collapse one of my lungs. Going into the 7th grade I had to go down to Salt Lake to start banking my own blood because I was going to need surgery. Half way through the school year I was out for 3 months having 2 rods placed in my back to straighten my spine. I was back to school before the school year let out. I didn’t have more than a couple sort of friends before my surgery but now I had none. The friends I did have made other friends and didn’t want to be friends with me anymore after I got back. I started spending my lunches in the library avoiding having to have any social interactions. What I didn’t know at the time was that there was another kid on the other side of the library reading and educating himself that was also avoiding social interactions. Turns out that kid was Jon but we wouldn’t make that connection til long after we were married.
To sum up the next few years. I was included in church activities by the older girls. The 2 girls I grew up with had moved away so I was the only one left. I got along so much better with the older girls. But even then I was frustrated because I saw them acting one way at church and a different way at school. But I wasn’t going to let that bother me too much, at least at that time it didn’t. For the first time I felt accepted at church. I enjoyed going to church until this group of girls graduated and I was left alone again. The only thing my mom said about it was that I needed to consider that my teacher was preparing a lesson for me and if I was not going to go then I needed to let her know so that I wasn’t wasting her time.
I still didn’t feel like I had any real friends at school. I did hang out with one girl but I was clearly there to serve her needs. She didn’t want to be in school and would often skip and drag me along with her. I was always so scared I was going to get caught. But I quickly found out that not only did the other kids not pay attention to me but neither did the teachers. I easily wrote my own notes excusing my absences and because I wasn’t a known trouble maker, and my grades were average, I was never called out on my obvious forgeries. This friend of mine was able to get her step dad falsely accused of child abuse and she was moved out of her house. I was then left with no one to hang out with at school. During lunch hour I would sneak up to the balcony of the auditorium and hide alone in the dark. I could hear some kids playing in the band room. The one on the drums didn’t have good rhythm, the one on the bass obviously didn’t know what he was doing, but the one on the guitar had some talent I had no idea who I was listening to. They only played one song over and over, “Wipeout” (Turns out that the guitar player was Jon!)
I look back on these years and there were a lot of little irritations about the church in my head but I didn’t know enough about anything to explain why I felt the way I did. I never read the scriptures or payed attention in church. I
was usually lost in my own thoughts during the lessons. Some things just didn’t feel right and I can’t remember specifically what they were. I just remember being frustrated. I always saw my Radford side as being such good examples of how people should act. They were far from perfect, but they created a standard in my mind. To grow up with temple going righteous neighbors that were preventing my family from having water said a lot to me. And it blew my mind watching how much my mother bent over backwards to be kind to these people that were not kind to her. I also saw that over time, because she was so kind, the community started loving her, and when she passed away the church was packed with people. Even the fire department showed up in their dress blues to pay their respect.
I have too much of my father in me! There are too many stories to tell and I get distracted easy! I am trying to stick with just the stories that are relevant to my own cognitive dissonance but as I reminisce, or in my case, run amiss, I can’t help but get off subject a little!
Being a Teenager
My first two years of high school I was too scared and too shy to try and be friends with anyone. I didn’t know it at the time but there were a lot of people who liked me and thought of me as a friend but I lacked the confidence to reach out to anyone, and I didn’t find out they liked me until years later. I enjoyed my art class but that is all I enjoyed. As a sophomore I was in Art 2 class. Me and 1 other student had created some artwork that was good enough that we were included in that years Art Symposium. Just like the sports department had State championships, the Art department had Symposium. It was rare for our teacher to pick anyone outside of her Advanced Art class to go to Symposium so we were super excited. I was so shy but one girl that was a senior took a liking to me and invited me to hang out with her and her friend that was a guy, also a senior. I developed a big crush on this guy! I sat next to him on the bus for several hours while the 3 of us talked. Well it was actually more me listening to them but I was just thrilled to be included! It is this friendship and crush that led me to meet Jon.
I stayed up after school to see the high school play. It was Seven Brides for Seven Brothers. My senior crush was one of the seven brothers. There was 4 hours between school letting out and the play starting so I was looking to try and run into this senior. I didn’t find him but what I did find was a card game between the some of the other cast members. One of the other seven brothers in the play was Jon and he was part of the card game. They invited me to play. I had forgotten that I had seen him before while hanging out with a friend. It was a brief encounter where he told me my favorite band “sucked”. I couldn’t
remember his name but I was surprised and flattered that every time he looked at me he would smile and wink.
After the play that night I was conflicted because I was there because of a crush on this senior but found myself thinking about this other guy. I felt a connection with him. I started noticing him in the stairway as we went to our 4th hour classes. He would smile and wink at me each time I saw him. Then I started noticing where and who he hung out with during the lunch hour and I worked up the courage to hang out with them also. It wasn’t long before we started wandering off by ourselves to talk and enjoy each others company. I can’t explain it but I knew that I was going to marry him. I was comfortable around him. It seemed as if we had always known each other. We lost our virginity to each other. Jon’s car was dubbed the “scrub mobile” because we were always in it making out! We were out in that car one time and thought we were alone but soon had the entire track team jumping on our car! We became a known couple at school that everyone knew would end up married.
Not long after Jon and I started dating, we would talk about our families and compare the differences between them. When I refer to my family I am almost always talking about my Radford side. I was already developing my own perspective on my mom’s two sides and there were not a very many happy memories there so I just didn’t talk about those sides. I had told Jon that I thought his family was dysfunctional and he disagreed and said mine was the dysfunctional one. So I invited him to our Radford reunion that year. My family greeted him with open arms and treated him as if he were already in the family. Jon was really upset afterwards because he had to admit that his family was really messed up.
Jon and I had some real fun experiences while we were dating. There was nothing to do in our small town, and even if there was, we didn’t have the money to do much. We usually went for drives around the back roads of Star Valley. I don’t think Jon ever got me home before my curfew, but it was usually never our fault! Even the night that we left to get home an hour early we ended up going off the road and almost tipping over his parents van and we had to walk a mile to get to my house, in the rain!
There was a time that we drove up to Grover Park to go for a hike. We left the car down in an open field that was also open range for ranchers to graze their cattle. There were no cows there when we parked, but when we got back, Holy Cow! I am about to tell you a story that my mother thought was a complete bullshit! Pun intended! But I swear it is the truth as I remember it.
Jon and I were not afraid of cows. It was just an annoyance that they decided to bed down all around where we parked. We started walking towards our car, we were being careful but we were walking directly towards them and our car. No worries at all until, the bull see us. That bull ran over and put himself right between us and his cows with his horns pointing our direction. Jon and I backed off and started making a wide circle to approach from a different direction. That damn bull followed us! It stayed between us and his cows! No matter where we went that bull was there. We both were starting to get a little freaked out. It was now dark and we had no light. It was harder to see where that bull was. So we decided to get down on our knees and pray! Not in these exact words but to the effect of, “Please God! Give us safe passage to the car! Keep us safe from harm! Get us home safe! Hear the words of my mouth!” Jon and I would make another attempt for the car and see the bull, so we would go pray again! We took turns praying until we finally made it to the drivers side of the car. Our prayers were answered! I thought that my mom would be so proud of me for praying for help that she wouldn’t be mad about being so late past curfew. Nope! She didn’t believe a word of it. I had lied to her many times in the past about why we were late that she did believe, but she did not believe the truth when I told her my Holy Cow story!
We dated for an entire year before we hit a road bump. Jon decided that he was starting to take a liking to another girl and he decided to break up with me. This couldn’t be right. I was going to marry him. I was devastated. He used the line that he still wanted to be friends. Ok! I was determined to hold him to that. I don’t know what got into me. It was extremely out of character for me, but I decided to make him squirm. The day after he broke up with me I wore a low cut tank top with a cardigan over top. I happen to be the Teachers Aid in his art class and it was my job to take roll. I pulled my chair right in front of him and bent way over so that he couldn’t help but notice my boobs. This is when I started to realize that I had people that thought of me as a friend because they would come up to me in the halls and tell me that Jon was an idiot for dumping me. In fact, the senior that I had a crush on called me up and invited me to a couple of dances that him and his 2 brothers were hosting. I was so excited, but found that I couldn’t stop thinking about Jon the entire time. I found myself alone with my crush at one point and I kept hearing that still small voice that was saying that If I let him kiss me I would regret it forever. I think he was hearing the same small voice because he had ample opportunity but did nothing more than put his arm around me to keep me warm.
Jon had broken up with me shortly before he graduated from high school. Holding him to the “lets just be friends” line he used, I made a deal with him that the new girlfriend could have him for graduation night, but he was mine for seminary graduation. That day after school I flirted and tried to drive him crazy and make him want to be more than friends again. I had trouble opening a bag of M&M’s and when it opened the bag split wide open and M&M’s
went everywhere! especially down my shirt and into my bra! That did the trick! I thought I had him, but later after the seminary graduation instead of going and letting him... umm... search for more M&Ms, he went through a breakdown of sorts. That is his story to tell but from my observations I didn’t know how to help him. I just stayed close to him and let him vent and act out in the way he needed to in order to let loose the last 18 years of mental and emotional turmoil so that he could break free and move on. There were moments he really scared me that night. But I was a loyal friend to him. I was going to be there for him and make sure he was ok before I left him that night. I think Jon was starting to realize that even though I was technically his ex girlfriend I was still his best friend. It didn’t take but a couple more months before Jon and I were back together again.
Jon moved out of his parents house within the week after graduation. I found myself alone yet again, a senior in high school with no friends. All my friends including Jon had all graduated and I didn’t have any friends my own age. But there was a big difference this time. I didn’t care if I had friends or not, well I cared, but it didn’t affect me like use to. I was starting to be more comfortable with who I was. I was there to enjoy doing what I enjoyed doing which was spending as much time as possible in the Art room. I was my Art teachers aid again and I took correspondence courses so that I could have some free classes which I spent in the Art room. I had a history class first thing in the morning and my last class of the day was a math class. The whole middle of the day I rarely left the art room. I was even elected Art Club president that year and found myself planning activities and in charge of many things. Instead of going and hiding in the dark balcony of the Auditorium, I would go to the Art room and hang out there. Before I knew it, there were several other people that came to hang out with me! I have a lot of great memories of that time. But then a few things also happened that made we wonder what I was getting into.
At church I became the only older girl, then there was a gap, and then a whole bunch of young 12-13 year olds. They wanted me to come back to church and mentor these girls, the way I had been mentored. They wanted me to help them play church volleyball. I knew I wasn’t worthy according to the church to play, and I remembered how I knew that a few of the older girls that mentored me were not worthy but they lied to the bishop about it. I decided I was not going to lie. If they wanted me to play volleyball they had to take me as I was. I went in for the bishops interview and was honest about having premarital sex with Jon. That bishop got very upset with me and told me I had to break up with Jon and stop taking the sacrament and repent and if I did all that then he wouldn’t tell my mom. I said my mom already knows and I am not breaking up with Jon! So I did not get to play volleyball. I left that interview thinking to myself how can I repent for something that I am not sorry for? According to the
teachings of the church I should be sorry, but I didn’t feel like my relationship with Jon was a bad thing. I simply wasn’t sorry! Who was this guy to tell me I had to break up with Jon?! What gave him that authority? How dare he assume that I was there to repent in the first place! I didn’t go in saying I had a confession to make or that I needed to repent of something! I walked away form church that day and only went on occasion to keep mom company when she went. I decided that anything spiritual with me was between me and God and no one in the church needed to know about it.
At school, Jon’s mom started to come and pull me out of classes so that she could talk to me. She isn’t even my mother in law yet! She would cry on my shoulder and ask meifshewasagoodmom. Iambarely18yearsoldandI didn’t know how to handle this. I told her what she wanted to hear even though I didn’t believe the things I told her. I just want her to let me go back to class. And then Jon’s little brother would come to find me while I was in the Art room. He would often vent to me about what his mother was doing to him. I grew up fast that year. I was no longer a little child. I was suddenly dealing with a lot of things that I didn’t understand yet, and wouldn’t understand for another 25 years. I had no idea what a sheltered life I had led up to that point.
As soon as I graduated I moved to Utah and moved into my dad’s apartment with him while I went to cosmetology school. I didn’t have any memories of having lived full time with my dad before. That was an interesting adjustment! He was a workaholic but when he did come home early enough we played a lot of cribbage. He used to poke fun at me that I would need to take my shoes off if I needed to count to 20! Jon moved to Utah also so that we could be closer.
We would often go up to the Capital Building and look down at Temple Square. We knew how important it was to Jon’s family that we get married in the temple. It wasn’t important to us. It was something that my parents encouraged, but my father was not a recommend holder and I knew he wanted to walk his girls down the aisle. We tried for a short amount of time to become worthy of a temple marriage but our hearts were not in it because we were not doing it for ourselves, but to please, or appease, Jon’s mom. We gave up! We got married in my parents’ back yard in June of 1994. That same bishop that told me that I had to break up with Jon ended up officiating our wedding. He didn’t believe that our marriage would survive because it was founded in sin, but here we still are!
Early Married Life and Church
This is when I really started my education! The world outside my sheltered existence with my parents and in a sheltered community was about to throw me for a loop. Jon’s first landlord would only rent to him if he was an active church member and was not engaging in premarital sex. Jon needed an affordable place to live and it wasn’t any of his business anyway so he lied. We also found out later that his landlord would not let a young unwed mother of a mixed race baby rent from him. My first boss was an upstanding high priest in the LDS church but was pinching every penny and making us work between 9 and 12 hour shifts because he didn’t have enough employees. He could not keep help because he was so hard to work for, and wouldn’t hire anyone that didn’t look like they were church members. I stayed longer than most people did because I kind of felt bad for him, but that was short lived when I got to work one day and found him cutting hair which is against the law, and he knew it because he told me not to tell anyone. He tried to withhold my final paycheck and I am pretty sure that he was logging me our of the time clock when there were no customers and I wasn’t cutting hair. I was starting to see an ugly side of how old men in the church behaved. It was bad enough to grow up with the water rights issues, but now I was seeing racism, bigotry, and greed on top of it. Of course those were all issues in my old ward, but being so sheltered I didn’t see it til I was outside of it.
I was starting to learn that there were things that I never learned about history from school or my parents that would make anyone say how could she not know that! I didn’t know about the Holocaust until we saw the movie Schindlers’ List. I cried so hard durning the movie and was devastated for a long time after. What else didn’t I know about?
I realized that the schools in our community growning up never taught history after the Civil War, and my Current Events class was us listening to our teacher give his far right ideology and we didn’t learn a damn thing about what was currently happening in our current events class. This was the early 90’s and the only current event that I learned about was when my Art teacher gave us an assignment to to do a Time Life Magazine cover. We needed to find a current event and create a cover for it but the catch was that we had to find a subject that we personally disagreed with and then create the cover that went against what we believed. I actually learned more from my Art teacher about history than I did my history teacher!
During the early years of our marriage we struggled a lot. Jon’s mom kept her claws deep in him and put a strain on our relationship. In 1996 my dad offered Jon a job as a laborer on a building project. Jon moved home and I stayed in Salt Lake and kept working until we were able to get out of our lease on our apartment and then I moved home too. Jon got to spend a lot of quality time with my dad’s brothers and being closer to home allowed Jon’s brothers to come spend time with us also. We were very close to my parents, not so much with Jon’s parents. Many times over the years Jon’s mom would ask for our help with many things only to be stabbed in the back later. I tried very hard to be nice to her, but as the years went on, it got harder and harder to be nice.
Jon and I never went to church as a married couple until I was about 6 months pregnant with Mitchell. Then it became important to have an eternal family. I remember having the conversation with Jon about getting sealed and he had some reservations about the church and the temple and even religion. He held back a lot of his thoughts and feelings from me at the time. I was able to talk him into it because I made the argument that if it is a bunch of nothing then there’s no harm or damage done, but if there is something to it then wouldn’t we rather be safe than sorry? So we gave it a good effort. During my downtime at my salon I would listen to the Book of Mormon on CD while I painted rocks for my dad to give away at our next family reunion. This is the first time I every read, or heard the Book of Mormon. I could not deny the feelings it gave me. I had never gotten a patriarchal blessing before so I decided to ask for one. I don’t remember much of it, but something stood out. He said to never say no to a calling in the church. This surprised me because I had already been thinking that I don’t want any callings. I didn’t want to be a teacher at all or give lessons.
We were back in the same ward that I grew up in. I was given a calling in the nursery right away. I loved it. I shared the calling with a friend from high school that was also pregnant. We just talked and played for 2 hours. Mitchell was born before Jon and I could get sealed in the temple so we started taking the temple classes. The teacher was our bishop, a different bishop! This bishop was a convert to the church and used to be my bus driver. He was a good man and was completely honest with us and told us that we wouldn’t understand anything about what happens in the temple. As he gave us our temple recommends and said to us, “I recommend you go to the temple.” He said it with a smile and a wink. No judgement, no expectations, just like he was telling us to go have fun. Boy was he right about not understanding anything! In my mind I was thinking... “Really? - ok whatever!” I tried to just be in the moment and not try to think about it or understand it.
I remember being taught something in Seminary that we as a church do not have repeated prayers like Hail Marys or repeated gestures like crossing yourself or what ever other religions do. I remember questioning that at the time thinking wait, every Sunday and Tuesday night we say the Young Women’s thingy, the one that went, “We are daughters of our Heavenly Father who loves us, and we love him. We will stand as witnesses of God...” and so on. Wasn’t that a repeated thing? And then to see all those hand gestures in the temple! Why would that Seminary teacher tell us that?! But I was trying to just be in the moment and didn’t ask questions.
Once we got to the celestial room and I finally got to speak to Jon, I could tell how freaked out he was. But we didn’t talk about anything then. It wasn’t until after we had been following the work for a while that we finally talked about what happened that day in the temple. Mitchell was sealed to us and we tried to be good mormons. I was shocked one day when I was painting ceramic Christmas carolers for my mom when she looked at the one I was working on and she looked at me with a slight grin and said “That one looks like her name should be Abigail.” I just about dropped it! How did she know the name given to me in the temple! Or was it just a coincidence? I didn’t dare ask because we were not allowed to talk about it outside of the celestial room. It blew my mind! Now after learning about how we are given those names I have to wonder if mom knew something and she was messing with me or what!
When I got pregnant with my daughter I was called to be the 2nd councilor in the young women. This scared the crap out of me! I knew that I was not comfortable praying in public or on behalf of a group. I never wanted to be called on to give a prayer. I didn’t feel like I knew how and that I never knew what to say. I had that calling for about a year until one night one of the middle aged girls came to the activity on Tuesday night and she didn’t like her teacher. Her teacher was very nice but was a convert and didn’t hold back when giving an opinion. This girl gathered all the other girls in her class and they hid all night. This frustrated her teacher and she didn’t know what to do about it. I ran into the girl at the end of the night and she apologized to me. I told her that she didn’t need to apologize to me but that she should apologize to her teacher because she had waisted her teacher’s time, and that she needed to be more considerate of others. Her father was the second councilor to the bishop and I have no idea what she told her father, but the other teacher and I were released from our callings the next Sunday. In a way it pissed me off, it totally pissed off the other teacher, but this was actually more of a great relief to me. The other teacher felt disenfranchised and left the church after a while.
I didn’t want to start attending Relief Society so I would go hang out in the nursery with Mitchell and my baby girl. The nursery was where I was the happiest in church. After Mitchell was too old for the nursery and had to start going to class, his teachers would not be able to handle him because he could not hold still so they would just come bring him to me and we would hang out in the nursery. Then one Sunday after Mitchell had started kindergarten we were late for church. Class had already started and I took Mitchell in. Two little girls turned to each other and said “Oh great. It’s Mitchell.” All the memories of growing up in that church and that same school came rushing back. Something kind of snapped in me and we stopped going to church for a while. What was the point if all we did was hang out in the nursery? I had also found out that Jon was taking us all to church and letting me think he was going to his classes but he was really leaving to go for a drive because he didn’t want to attend his meetings.
The next time I was given a calling it was back to the nursery. That made me happy at first, until I found out that the rules had changed and they wanted us to give these 1, 2 and 3 year olds a lesson! I was back in the nursery with my same friend from high school and we were both pregnant again so our lesson was extremely simple! We would print out a picture of Jesus or of one of the scripture stories and give the kids crayons! Sometimes we talked about the picture with the kids but most of the time we didn’t. And then we started getting other mom’s in there and they thought we should be teaching the lesson. It simply wasn’t fun anymore. It became a chore. We couldn’t just play with kids we had to make them hold still and listen. I was done. I just didn’t want to go to church anymore but I kept my faith in the gospel the way I was taught by my parent’s example.
And then there was the tithing settlement. Jon and I had started struggling financially. We were not able to give a full tithe. We told the bishop, a new bishop, that we needed to pay our bills before we paid tithing. He told us that we needed to pay tithing first and then if we needed help to pay the bills then we needed to ask the church for help! I argued with him that if we pay the bills first then we don’t need to ask for help! It went into a debate about the letter of the law or the spirit of the law and then he basically told us that if we didn’t pay our tithing we would miss out on God’s blessings. I left the bishops office so pissed off! I swore I would never pay tithing again.
When it came time to baptize and to bless new babies we made an effort to try and be active again. Each time ended in more disappointing experiences. I have only been to Relief Society twice. The first time the lesson was about judging others so that we as mothers can teach our children what is right. The wording made me physically uncomfortable. I couldn’t help myself... I had raised my hand. The lady giving the lesson just looked at me. I said as nicely and kindly as I could that I understood what is trying to be taught about helping our kids understand right from wrong, however I asked, “is it really our place to judge? Aren’t we taught not to judge?” 4 or 5 other hands went up and they all backed up the teacher giving every mother the right to judge everyone for the sake of teaching our children. I just wanted to slink into the woodwork. Needless to say I didn’t go back for a long, long time. The second time I went to Relief Society I will tell later in my story.
When I was pregnant with my youngest they called me to be the ward chorister. Everything in me was screaming, “Never! NO Fucking Way”, but because of my patriarchal blessing telling me to never say no to a calling I accepted. This brought back a memory of wanting to take choir in Jr. High and the girls telling me they didn’t want me in that class with them so I didn’t take it. That made me feel like I wasn’t good enough so even though I loved music, I didn’t learn anything about it. I couldn’t read music, I didn’t understand anything about timing or any of it. Luckily the organist was the mom of my friend from high school that I use to skip classes with. She was a very educated woman and she taught me everything I needed to know. We became good friends and opened up about old times when I hung out with her daughter.
Jon stayed home with our 3 kids while I went to do my calling. He really didn’t want to go to church and I didn’t want to struggle by myself with them, and I couldn’t leave them while I was leading the music, so they stayed home. I still had a fear of being in front of people let alone singing in front of them. This calling checked every anxiety box I had. I eventually gained more confidence and started having a little fun with it. I made it a goal to make the ward sing every song in the hymn book. I was having fun with it until many people started complaining that I was not calling any of them for special musical numbers between talks. They wanted to showcase their talents. Our bishop at the time told me not to allow anyone special treatment over anyone else and told me not to do those special musical numbers. So that became a problem having to tell people they were no longer allowed to sing or play their instruments. They were offended and I was the one that was given the brunt of their frustration.
Something I started picking up on while listening to fast and testimony meetings was that all the same people got up to bear their testimonies every month. Lots of children would get up also and they all said the exact same thing, “I’d like to bear my testimony, I know this church is true. I know that President Monson is our prophet. I am grateful for my mom and dad and my brothers and sisters. I say this in the name of Jesus Christ amen.” Kid after kid said the same thing. It was adorable to see the littlest ones try to remember all of it, only to freeze and then their moms came up and whispered in their ear the words for them to repeat. I look back and roll my eyes at how young the conditioning started. I did get a good laugh at one kid that obviously didn’t want to go up there. He just folded his arms and said, “I’d like to bear my testimony because my mom said I have to...” I wanted to stand up and applaud him!
When the adults would give their testimonies I picked up immediately that they all were grateful to have the fullness of the gospel. I couldn’t stop thinking about the Sealed Portion when I heard them. I wondered if they had forgotten about the sealed part. It always bothered me, but at the time I didn’t think anything malicious was going on. I just thought the members of my ward were forgetting to mention it. But the more it happened the more it bothered me. I started looking for a reason to ask to be released. As I was very pregnant I used that as my out.
Something I heard said a lot in the church was anytime someone would have a question that couldn’t be answered I would always hear, “God will sort it out in the end.” I heard this a lot while helping with the genealogy. If we couldn’t read the hand writing very well we did the best we could and God would sort it out in the end! In the back of my mind I was thinking, “Then why are we doing any of this at all if God can just sort it all out in the end anyway?”
There was one experience I had that made me feel like I might have understood exactly how my grandma, Leona, felt when the bishop told her that she would never see her kids in the eternities if she divorced her husband. I was cutting and styling an older lady that I had known my whole life. I was venting to her about my mother in law and she told me that I better get use to her because I am sealed to her son and I won’t be with my side of the family for eternity, I will be with my husbands family. That didn’t sit right with me. The more I was learning about my religion the more I hated it, but I chose to chalk it up to people are not perfect and maybe it’s not really that way, and “God will sort it out in the end!”
And just to put a cherry on the top of my cognitive dissonance sundae, I was giving my step grandmother a perm once and she told me, and I quote, “Becky you are old enough now that I think you should know the truth about your other grandmother, Leona, she was a whore.” I had to turn the chair so that she couldn’t see me in the mirror. My face turned red and I was ready to explode on her. How could this sweet little old lady that was so active in the church and so righteous talk about someone else like that. It had been over 50 years since all that had happened and she still carried all that hate? What happened to forgiving, and do unto others, and love one another and so on? I saw through her that day. I asked my mother about what she had said and all she said to me was, “does your heart tell you that it is the truth?” I told her no that I didn’t think it was. Mom said, “Then don’t let it bother you.” That is when mom told me all about the things that she had been protecting me from for my entire youth about how she grew up and the events that led to it all.
Shortly after that my grandpa, Leo, who was getting worse with dementia, woke up one morning and didn’t recognize Eldora. He asked where his wife was and she said, “I’m right here.” He said, “No, where is Leona?” That same day Eldora put him in a nursing home because she couldn’t handle it anymore. I know my mother was furious at Eldora for her behavior but she never showed it. She
was always kind. She wanted her dad to be happy and comfortable.
Ironically after over 50 years of divorce and having nothing to do with each other, Leo and Leona died within 2 weeks of each other. I use to joke with a couple of cousins and my sister that it was like Leo and Leona had some things to sort out and find forgiveness before Eldora got there to screw it up!
I started to realize that my mother was the best example I could have ever had of what it means to be kind to those who spitefully use you. No matter what her family, our neighbors, or anyone ever did to her, she was always kind in return. The last coherent thing she ever said to me was “Honey! Not vinegar!”
Dealing with Mental and Emotional Turmoil
I knew that Jon was struggling with the church but I didn’t like the way he was dealing with it. At this point Mitchell was almost 13 and our daughter JonaLee (Jonee) was 10, Xayne was 3 and Layk was a newborn. Jon and I were struggling a bit. We had a lot of fights. He was working as a plumber for a company out of Jackson Wy. and was working on a job site out of town about 6 hours away and he would stay there during the week and come home on weekends. We had struggled with his mother a lot over the years, but we were about to begin a journey through hell.
At 5 am on December 5th 2009 I was on the couch nursing Layk when the phone rings. It is my mother in law and she is in a panic because her daughter Laura is “being attacked by Satan” Laura lived in Blackfoot Idaho with her little sister, and my mother in law lives in Afton Wy. She tells me that she is going out to Blackfoot to save Laura. She is in such a frantic state and she truly believes that Satan is physically attacking her daughter. I know that there is no way I am going to get her to see reason. She never has before when I have tried, so I just try to calm her down and I remind her that Satan can’t actually hurt her but he can scare her enough that she could hurt herself and if she didn’t clam down before driving out there she could get in an accident. So her and Jon’s dad go to Blackfoot to save Laura. Sunday night comes and we get a phone call from Jon’s mom telling us that Laura is dead. Jon starts to have a breakdown. My mom was there when we got the phone call and she puts her arms around Jon and tells him that he needs to hold it together for his family.
Jon called his brother that lives in Driggs and they met up and went to Blackfoot to pick up their sister and then they went to Arco Idaho were their parents were, and where Laura had died. The week that followed was, in a word,
crazy. My mother in law is a hoarder and so there was no place at her house for anyone to stay. So between my house and my mom’s house we gave everyone a bed, including Jon’s parents that only live 30 mins away. As we planned the funeral my mother in law would start talking to Laura and telling us what Laura wanted her life sketch to say. She would often look at the ceiling and say, “I know Laura! I’m trying but they won’t let me!” She was telling everyone that Laura “had to die because God had a mission for her on the other side that only she could do.” This freaked us out, what did she mean, “had to die”?
Jon’s mom had claimed to have visions in the past and that she had repressed memories that she claims surfaced when she was in her 40’s about being raped at 3 years old. She began talking to Laura and other spirits of God regularly. She would even interrupt a conversation to say “hold on I need to tell you what Laura just said...” There is so much here that I could talk about but I think I have made the point.
With hindsight I can’t help but wonder if my mother in law had a dream that Laura was being attacked by Satan and she drove out there and convinced her daughter that she was being attacked. According to my mother in law Laura believed that the proper way to pray was to be naked with only your temple garments on. Laura and her mother decided that she needed to go pray and that there was a beautiful mountain out near Arco that looked like God
might be there. They tried to sneak out but Jon’s dad woke up and insisted that he drive them wherever they were going. When they got to the top of the mountain Jon’s dad noticed that Laura only had on a trench coat and sandals. He tried to stop her but my mother in law intervened and said that God would protect her. It was -4 F that morning. She officially died of hypothermia. The Arco police knew that there were deep issues that was happening with this family but they had nothing to use to hold anyone accountable for Laura’s death. They tried to build a case around negligence but as they told me later, “they didn’t have the smoking gun”.
This event triggered the downfall of religion in Jon and led to more fighting between us. Because of how I was raised I was able separate what my mother in law believed as her being a special servant of God, and what I knew to be reality and knowing that she was not mentally stable. It didn’t affect my faith enough to make me ask hard questions. It did affect Jon and it took him to dark places that I didn’t know how to deal with or how to help him. I think this is when he started visiting anti mormon websites without telling me, but when I did figure out what he was doing it led to more fights.
One of the fights I remember having was with all the kids sitting there with us as they ate dinner. Jon was bad mouthing the church and spouting some of the crap he was reading form those anti mormon websites. He said
something really negative about Joseph Smith Jr. and that set me off. I started yelling at him that there had to be things about Joseph Smith that we didn’t understand. Maybe the church didn’t understand it either or they were keeping it from us because we couldn’t understand. Either way we needed to have faith. I also ripped into him for openly mocking our church and our faith in front of our kids.
Nearly a year later and Jon was ready to leave me. He was not happy. I couldn’t get him to stop being angry which in turn made me angry. We were both being horrible parents. My sister’s husband was treating her like crap and she in turn was acting out towards us. And then my world came crashing down. My mom was diagnosed with brain cancer. My mom would say crazy things in the past that we would jump on her for. She told me and my sister once that we would have a real hard time with my dad after she was gone, and she would say that she knew that she would never get to see her grandkids get married. We hated it when she talked that way and we would just blow it off. There was one thing that I remember saying to my mom once when I was dating Jon when she told me that she was worried about me. I told her, “Mom you have to stop worrying. It causes brain cancer.” I said a lot of stupid shit in my life but that one takes the cake, but how could I have known? I use to hate myself for saying that after she was diagnosed. I am so grateful to the work for helping me let go of that guilt. I can actually laugh about it a little now.
So during the next 4 months as we watch my mom deteriorate, my brother and sister couldn’t deal with it. My brother is an alcoholic and he was never sober. My sister would take her anti depressants and check out. My dad was overly protective of mom and wouldn’t let anyone come see her. We also started lashing out toward each other. I was helping the best I could to do as much preparation for a funeral as possible. I poured my grief into painting a portrait of her and drawing depictions of her on a swing that honored her life story, and photoshopping the program for the funeral. My dad had high expectations and he wanted a perfect tribute. Jon and I put our relationship on the back burner while we dealt with the turmoil. This was a very hard time for all of us. We not only lashed out at each other, we also came together. My mom’s sister wanted to be mom’s nurse, and mom’s brother’s wife was a retired nurse and wanted to help. Dad invited mom’s brother and his wife to live with them to help take care of mom following her brain surgery.
Mom had her brain cut into and her personality changed a bit. She became paranoid that my sister was out to get her. This broke my sister, and I unintentionally made it worse. My sister had just helped change mom’s sheets and was standing in the door. I came in and sat down next to mom on the bed. Mom pulled me in close and pointed at my sister and said that my sister was there to hurt her and that I needed to keep an eye on her. My sister snapped back that she was not there to hurt her. I just turned and looked at my sister then turned back to my mom and said, “I know mom, I’m watching her for you.” My sister stormed out of the room feeling like I threw her under the bus, but all I was trying to do was calm my mom down, which it did.
Mom got to the point where she couldn’t communicate and wasn’t responding when we went in to see her. She had told us that she didn’t want anyone being sad. She wanted us all to keep our sense of humor about everything. Even though Jon and I were constantly fighting I kept a positive attitude in front of mom. Until a couple days before she died. I had gone up to see her and hugged her with her not responding to me. I went out of her room and talked with dad for a while then I felt myself start to lose it. I went back in mom’s room and just started crying. I put my head on her chest and told her that I loved her and I didn’t know if I was strong enough to go on without her. I felt her lift her head and kiss me on the forehead. Not long after mom’s funeral I was listening to the song “Who Knew” by P!nk and I heard a line in the song that jumped out and slapped me. “That last kiss I’ll cherish, until we meet again.” To this day I can’t hear that song without crying. Many years later while driving down the road that song came on the radio and my daughter quickly turned it off and said, “Oh no ya don’t!” I asked why she did that and she said “Because you are driving and you won’t be able to see through your tears.”
Losing mom was horrible, but things were about to get worse. 5 months after my mom died my sister’s husband had a heart attack and died also. A few weeks prior to his death my sister and I and some friends from church had a girls night where my sister vented about how her husband was treating her. They got to talking about how the perfect way to kill someone is to stab them with an icicle because the murder weapon would melt away and never be found. It was a joke of course, but the morning he died was a Sunday and the entire ward new about it within an hour. At church our Relief Society president leaned forward and whispered into the ear of our compassionate service director and asked, “Did you hear (my sister)’s husband died?” This lady whipped around and said a little too loudly, “Did she kill him?”
Anyway, as I am sitting on my sister’s couch with her while we wait for the coroner and the bishop, she tells me that her and her husband had been living on opposite ends of the trailer and the night before he thought he was having heartburn. He didn’t want her to leave him alone. He would say to her that he didn’t want to die alone. She said that if he felt like he was dying then she needed to get him to a hospital. He then would blow it off and say no it’s just heart burn. She felt it was another manipulation tactic and told him that if he needed her she would be down the hall.
She said that she prayed to Heavenly Father that she just couldn’t do it anymore and that she needed help getting him out of her life. So in her mind, and at the time mine too, she had her prayers answered. We even joked that when mom got to heaven she pulled some strings with God to take him out.
This actually started the downward spiral of my sister’s mental and emotional life. She felt guilty about her wanting her husband out of her life and it led to his death, but she felt special because God answered her prayer. She now had freedom but was now a single parent with no free time. Her boys were adopted and they were both drug babies and had special needs but she didn’t give them the kind of help they needed. Mom who had always taken care of my sister wasn’t there to do that anymore which led to more problems that she didn’t know how to deal with and therefore she was questioning God’s plan for her.
Through the years I have watched her create her own problems. She asks for my opinion but lashes out at me when it’s not what she wants to hear. I got to the point where I would ask her if she really wanted my honest opinion or if I should just stay out of it. She said she wanted it but I would still catch hell. So I just started telling her I didn’t know how to help her which sadly is the truth. Another one of those profound things my mom said to me every once in a while was that she hoped I never felt like she loved my sister more than me, which I never did feel that way. She knew that she was giving my sister more attention than she was giving me. My mom took me by the hands and looked right into my eyes and said, “Becky, you have a good head on your shoulders. You are going to be ok. (my sister) won’t be.” I didn’t get it when she said it. After my mom died and I saw my sister withdraw emotionally, it made sense. I have tried several times to step into the shoes that were my mom’s and help my sister, but I never could figure out what my sister needed to be happy. I still haven’t.
So here I am, taking care of my dad who had a lot of physical problems with his back and he had Parkinson’s disease, and was very lonely. I would do the cooking and cleaning for him. Jon is also helping to take care of dad’s physical needs, like hygiene, as well as all the maintenance and yard work that dad couldn’t do anymore. Dad also underwent back surgery and we needed help from mom’s brother’s wife again. They came to live with dad off and on to help give me a break. I am taking care of my widowed sister because she couldn’t “deal with it” because of her emotions, or lack of emotions. She was already taking a lot of anti depressants but now they were stronger doses. I am trying to cut hair on the side to bring in some money because we were struggling financially. Me and Jon were barely hanging on to our marriage because we just couldn’t handle one more thing to deal with. My dad decided to fight a lawsuit that another neighbor started over adverse possession and tried to take 2 acres of land away from my dad. So our efforts turned to help my dad with this, which against the odds, he won. Even though he won, he still offered to help pay for moving a pipeline over to their property and he paid for a new fence.
I was not a good mother to my own kids during this time. I relied on Mitchell and Jonee to take care of their brothers so that I could take care of everyone else. And on top of it all dad’s dog died. My dad’s loyal companion that lived longer than we thought he would died outside my dad’s bedroom window during the night. A while later I found my dad unresponsive when I went up to cook him dinner and had to get an ambulance there. Turns out that he wasn’t trusting me to handle his medications correctly and after I would leave he would redo what I had just done to check on me. He fell asleep while counting out his meds and couldn’t remember if he had taken his pills or not so he took more. Mom’s brother and his wife were finally able to talk dad into going to an assisted living because he was more than I could handle on my own because my sister wasn’t helping and my brother lived in Boston. My brother started accusing me of stealing from my dad and sticking him in a nursing home.
Then we get news that my dad’s brother was not going to be with us much longer. I took dad to go see him. I thought it was hard to watch my dad mourn the loss of my mom. Losing his brother was worse. I sat there and watched my dad sob. I heard him say, “Don’t go where I can’t follow.” Within a couple days my uncle had died. 2 days later we got a call from the assisted living that dad was in the ER. He had been found unresponsive. Dad was the last one left of the “original 4 brothers” from Frank and Pearl. He didn’t want to be here anymore. He wanted to be with them and with mom. It took almost 5 months for his body to catch up to where his mind was. While he lay there in the nursing home we watched him lose track of reality. He spent 5 months dreaming for the most part and struggled with making sense of some things. At one point when I went to see him he asked how I got out of jail! I have never been in trouble with the law! I would watch him as he slept and I could see his eyebrows go up and in my head I could hear him say “Whassat?” (what was that?) I could even see him lean his head forward like he use to when he was trying to hear what someone was saying. Then I could see his head go back slightly and his shoulders shake a little like he use to when he was laughing at something funny. In my head I was thinking, “ I wonder who he is talking to on the other side!”
Dad finally passed away. My sister started being angry because “we weren’t enough for him to want to stay alive” and my brother lashed out because he though dad’s wishes to split it all in equal 3rds wasn’t fair for him. He accused me and my sister of all sort of things in order to take more for himself. My sister also wanted me to start going back to church so that she has someone to sit by. She was already a passive aggressive person but she started getting worse. She didn’t want to be the only one who went to church, and she always prided herself in her honesty and her integrity, which I was already seeing through but didn’t want to break her by calling her on it. I also remembered my mom telling me that my sister needed special attention and that I would be fine and she wouldn’t, so I felt like I needed to fill those shoes and do what I could to support her.
She guilted me into going back to church with her one Sunday, because “it is what mom would have wanted”. This is the second time, and the last time I ever went to Relief Society. I sat next to my sister on the back row. The teacher got up to give her lesson and before she started the lesson she started venting about how her morning went. She told us of the fight she had with her husband and the struggle she had with her kids, and how her in laws are too nosey. She went on and on and I was very irritated, because her problems seemed so petty compared to mine, but I hoped this was going to loop back around and tie into a lesson somehow. It never did. We all just sat there and listened to her as if we were her group therapy. I looked around and most women were just soaking up the gossip that they could then talk to others about, which they did. No one got up to help her like maybe take her out to go speak in a more private setting if she needed to get it off her chest. I just sat there in shock really. I knew I didn’t want a close relationship with anyone in that room. Not even my own sister. She would nudge me once in a while and say that she could relate and then giggle. I decided that I couldn’t continue to put myself into uncomfortable situations just so that my sister would be happy. She was going to have to figure out how to do that without me going to church with her.
In the end I was not speaking to my brother at all. I didn’t want to speak to my sister, but I did for her sake. My sister and my brother were not speaking to each other at all. They were both in therapy and taking antidepressants and in my brother’s case drinking his problems away. I wanted to honor my parents and their example but I felt I was already failing at it.
Figuring Life Out
Suddenly I had more time. Now it was time to address my own marriage. For the first time I now had a savings and was debt free thanks to dad. I knew that Jon was miserable at his job. I hoped that allowing him to quit and take a break would help him figure out some things that would then help us figure out some things. That happened, but not the way I thought it would.
In February of 2014 Jon quit his job and promised me he would clean and do some maintenance on the house and I focused on building my business back up. Instead of cleaning, he started reading stuff online. I thought he was back to reading more anti mormon stuff. He wasn’t telling me anything about it. All I knew was that I would come home form work and nothing had gotten done. I was frustrated. I would start yelling at him for breaking his promises to me. I expected him to yell back at me like he usually did, but he wasn’t doing that anymore. He was agreeing with me. He was apologizing and telling me I was right. I didn’t get it. He wasn’t fighting with me anymore. His tone of voice was softer and he seemed happier. This actually frustrated me more because I didn’t understand this change in his behavior.
This went on for several weeks before he came to me and told me that he couldn’t lie to me and keep this secret from me anymore. He told me that he had found a video about an old lady that had been excommunicated for reading the Sealed Portion of the Book of Mormon, and that instead of cleaning the house he had been reading the Sealed Portion also. I freaked out. It didn’t even process what he was telling me. I only heard “excommunicated” and was scared that Jon was going to be also. What would happen to our temple sealing? I had just lost my parents and was scared to lose them in the eternities also, not to mention our own kids. So I instinctually fought him. I remember asking him if it sounded like the same guy who wrote the Book of Mormon wrote the Sealed Portion or if it sounded like two different authors. He said it sounded like they were written from the same source.
I remember looking into this at first and finding all of the articles about how some guy swindled an old lady out of her money. I confronted Jon on that. He was patient with me and begged me to just read one book and if I didn’t feel the same as he did then he would agree to move out and continue to hand over his paychecks to support the kids. That scared me. Was this that important? More important than me and the kids?
I saw that one of the books was the “Authorized and Official Biography” of Joseph Smith. I was already rolling my eyes! How could it be a biography! Wouldn’t it be an Autobiography? But my family was important to me, and I remembered the argument I had with Jon where I had defended Joseph Smith. I thought, Ok lets just see if there are things that this book reveals about Joseph Smith that haven’t been explained by the church, so I started reading.
Right off the bat I was irritated by the arrogance of this guy! This author! Reading the Forward and Introduction didn’t change my mind at all. I still thought that this author was a swindler. I decided to find proof that he was. I was going to look up this old lady that got swindled and make my case to Jon.
I found the video that Jon told me about that he saw. The interview with Ida Smith. I started watching. This video was nothing like I thought it would be. She was brilliant. She was thinking clearly. She didn’t seem confused. She was defending this guy who I was told took her money! Turns out that she knew exactly what she was doing and had very good reasons why. She convinced me that everything written about this author was false. The video presented evidence of things that made me question my church. It explained why there are things that are not talked about in the church. It proved to me that the church itself, and others also, was deceptively creating the narrative that she was swindled. It was her video that made me stop fighting against this author and these books and opened my mind to new information.
So I started reading again this time I allowed myself to be a little excited about what I was about to learn. I was still cautious as my eternal salvation and my celestial glory was on the line. By chapter 14 I had completely changed my mind about the author and by the end of the book I knew that I would never trust the LDS church ever again.
Jon and I started watching and listening to everything we could together. I started getting to know the author of these books. He for sure didn’t act like any prophet of god that I had ever been taught to believe in! He took a little getting use to, but now I realize that I was the one that needed to let loose my thoughts and expectations of how things should be, as the world taught me they should be. I still find myself working on that from time to time! This Christopher guy had a similar sense of humor as the Radford side of my family I found myself drawn to his personality.
Suddenly Jon and I found ourselves getting happier. We still had an occasional fight but found that it was usually due to a miscommunication and once it was cleared up the fight was over. The kids seemed happier too. In 2015 we thought about going to the MWAW Symposium in Salt Lake, but the social anxiety got the better of us so we didn’t.
We did however go to Pheonix to visit my brother. It had been about 2 years since I had spoken to him and because of the MWAW I started to realize that the hard feelings I held for him were only holding me back. I didn’t like my brother not because he was gay, but because of his snarky, mean jabs that he made at anyone who disagreed with his politics, and his militant attitude and mockery of people to try and shame them into thinking like he does. He likes picking a fight and gets very angry when he is on the minority side of the issue, which in my family is 100% of the time. His unwillingness to see anything from a different perspective and treating us all like stupid rednecks that don’t know what’s good for us has gotten him in trouble with many people. He loves drama even though he claims he doesn’t I decided it was time to make the effort to set aside my pride and ego and try to make amends. What I discovered in this attempt was that my brother was never going to set aside his own pride and ego and that he still had the mentality of a rebellious teenager. But I also figured out that even though I completely disagreed with his line of thinking, I understood him better. I at least could realize that his issues run very deep and that he would not likely be able to be a happy childlike individual and that he would always blame others for his problems. I learned that nothing I could ever say to him would ever change him and that he just needed to be loved and accepted anyway. He and I have become close and he knows I support the Humanity Party. He still tries to start debates with me and I humor him to a degree because I know he wants to prove how smart he is, but he has realized that he isn’t going to change my mind just as I will never change his. There is now a mutual respect and I owe that to the work of the MWAW.
All Hell Breaks Loose
Jon’s brothers had been coming back to Star Valley for several years to go camping. We would usually go say hi and hang out for a night but it was their camping trip and we didn’t want to intrude. The camping trip in 2014 became hijacked by my mother in law and from then on in her mind it became the family reunion. It was not. She was literally crashing their camping trip. Every time she was there she harassed them about drinking and smoking and not going to church anymore. She would try and manipulate them into obeying her by telling them that their eternal bonds will be broken and ask, “don’t you want to be an eternal family?” All of us would just look at her like, “not if it means and eternity of you acting like this!” She would eventually realize that she was failing to get through to them and then would turn passive aggressive and say stuff like, “Don’t worry I will come visit you in the lower kingdoms. I will be in the Celestial Kingdom with your dad and you won’t be able to come see us but we will come see you.” I heard her say that to her sons! So in 2015 the boys asked us to find a place to camp at Bear Lake hoping that she wouldn’t come. Wrong! She came and brought Jon’s sister and her husband and their autistic son who was 3 and their 6 month old at the time.
The very first night we caught Jon’s sister’s husband talking to my two kids ages 8 and 5 and my nephew age 6 about pornography. We came down hard on him. He stayed clear of us until he left to go back to Blackfoot to go to work. Jon’s mother, father and sister were staying in a condo that belonged to Jon’s brother through a timeshare. Jon’s sister would usually pass off her boys to other people so that she could enjoy herself. We enjoyed having fun with our little autistic nephew and I found myself holding the baby a lot. My kids were old enough now that they took care of themselves for the most part and I still had Mitchell and Jonee to help keep an eye on them.
Because religion no longer had a hold of me, after the kids were in bed I enjoyed a bottle of Koldiska which is a Wyoming whiskey. This is the first time my mother in law saw me drinking and she immediately accused me of being an alcoholic. She began to try and manipulate me using religion which was no longer working on me like it use to. Jon and I were both acting different and she wasn’t liking the fact that she could not control us anymore. She tried controlling her other sons which didn’t work either. So she concentrated on controlling her daughters. It was just before midnight and our autistic nephew was very tired and having tantrums. Jon’s sister couldn’t take it anymore. She strapped him into his car seat and shut the door and then went to my camper to hide. After a few minutes I started getting vocal about how she needed to get her son to bed and that it wasn’t cool to tie down an autistic kid and let him scream. After a few more minutes Jon’s brother went and got his sister and ripped into her about how she was treating her son and told her to leave so that she could put him to bed. She did but was very angry about it.
Six months later we find out that Jon’s sister had been taken to a mental hospital. We go to see her and She tells us that she has been hearing voices that tell her to kill the children by strangling them, slitting their throats, and
drowning them. She told us that she had strapped them into their car seats and taken them for happy meals and then drove out to Blackfoot Reservoir and debated whether or not she should drive into the water. She told us how she had been hearing voices all of her life and that her mother told her that it was normal.
She told us that she had been diagnosed with Paranoid Schizophrenia, and asks us to take custody of her kids. She tells her husband that he has to sign them over also or they will be taken into state custody. We sign all the legal documents and we bring our autistic nephew, Connor, and his little brother, Logan, into our home. While we are in the process of taking custody, Jon and I walked in on our brother in law pouring tabasco sauce on Connor’s thumb, but it is getting on more than his thumb. He declares that he is “killing two birds with one stone”, he is punishing him for not eating his cereal, and stopping him from sucking his thumb. Our brother in law gave Jon advise on how to handle Connor, “Remember, you have to beat him harder because he is autistic, and autistic kids don’t feel pain.” There is so much to unwrap here. I am going leave a lot of things out for the sake of time.
Jon and I felt like we were saving Connor and Logan from their parents and from a life of mental, emotional and physical abuse. We questioned ourselves a lot and second guessed ourselves a lot. Were we doing the right thing? After all Connor and Logan’s higher selves chose to be born into that situation. Is the abuse the thing that their higher selves needed for balance? Maybe their high selves knew there was a strong possibility that they would end up in our house and that’s the experience that they are looking for. What were their higher selves looking for, a life in religious craziness or a life free of religion? And then we were thinking of Jon’s sister and her husband. What were their high selves looking for? We just didn’t know the answers.
We struggled a lot to begin with. We made a lot of mistakes with them too. I knew better but because of the raw emotions involved, I spanked when I should have loved. My stress level went through the roof, and my patience dropped. I loved them with all my heart but Connor acted so much like his father that it drove me nuts. I didn’t want him continuing to behave that way. When he would act like his father I got upset with him. I didn’t know how to get through to him to get him to understand what I was trying to teach. That frustrated me. I wanted nothing more than to love him and to teach him to be more like his peers. His parents wanted him to be autistic because he was getting Social Security Insurance. He was a paycheck to them. I wanted him to have a better life than that. I see now the big mistakes I was making with him, but at the time I had forgotten all I had learned through the MWAW and didn’t realize that I was the problem.
We may have had a lot of struggles but we also made a lot of big strides with Connor and Logan. They benefited from having older siblings as examples. We gave them a lot of experiences that they had not had with their parents. We got Connor over a lot of his fears. He use to scream and thrash around when sitting in an inch of water. Baths were a nightmare for the first few months. When Connor saw a scary monster we would pick him up and go feel to see if the monster was real or not. Soon he stopped seeing monsters altogether. He was learning to communicate. He went from only repeating the words he heard (echolalia) to advocating for his needs. Logan went from needing to be held all the time to just being happy and exploring his environment.
As things were normalizing for us, my sister’s world got worse. Her youngest son who was 8 at the time was harboring a lot of hatred. He was caught taking a kitchen knife to school so that he could kill an autistic kid that he thought was getting special attention, more than the attention he was getting and he didn’t think it was fair. The school board helped my sister get him into a juvenal group home to help him. It was really hard for her because the closest home was about 9 hours away on the other side of the state of Wyoming.
While driving out there to make arrangements she got into an accident and she broke her knee, her gas pedal knee. He car was totaled and I had to drive 7 hours to go get her and become her caregiver for 3 months. This meant helping her pack up her baby boy and send him to live on the the other side of the state, and then drive her there every two weeks for a visit. I had to pack her medical equipment around every time we went anywhere and I was always buying fresh ice for the equipment.
Even though her son was learning new skills, she was not. She was taking stronger antidepressants and checking out. I remember dropping him off and getting back in the car and my sister popping her pills and closing her eyes and sleeping for 6 straight hours while I drove. I cried for her while I drove.
When he returned home, the structure he learned while there went out the window because my sister couldn’t carry through with making hard decisions. He has been back in trouble many times since then and is constantly talking about hurting other people and wanting to kill his mom and kill himself. I just don’t know what to do to help. He has recently told his mother that he is confused about his sexuality and now she is forcing him to go to church, which is making everything worse.
He other son has now gone to live in an institute also. My sister has not been honest with me about how and why he was taken there. I do know that he got violent with one of his teachers. My sister makes excuses for him and gives
him whatever he wants. When anyone else tells him no he takes it out on his mother.
I just get so frustrated because I have so many people in my life that would benefit from having the Humanity Party platform in place. They just can’t let go of the ideas they have been taught by the world and so they fight against this plan. I just get so down sometimes because I don’t see how there can be any hope for humanity. I have to remind myself that if there was no hope. We all would have blown up by now. So until I am asked to do something else, I will keep my sense of humor intact and find my joy and be a candle.
Balancing Church with New Knowledge
Mitchell and Jonee had both been baptized before we found the MWAW, but we still had 2 kids to think about. Now if it had been up to just Jon and I we would have just slipped into the woodwork, gone inactive, and never given it another thought. But we had other people to think about. We knew that Jon’s mom would cause problems in one way or another if we didn’t baptize Xayne and Layk. The previous year we had supported my sister in baptizing he older son. Xayne and Layk didn’t know anything about what baptism was. They just saw that it looked like fun and because their cousin did it they wanted to also.
When Jon went in for the interview with the bishop he answered questions honestly, but he didn’t volunteer information either. He was honest about his drinking and the bishop still approved Jon to baptize our son. To me this was about a giving my kids the experience they wanted and also treating all my kids equal. Two were already baptized and I felt the other two needed the same experience. It was also about not rocking the religious boat with Jon’s mom, or my sister.
When Jon called his mom to tell her when we were baptizing Xayne she caused problems like we suspected she would. She claimed that Jon was not worthy. Jon explained that our bishop decided that he was and so there isn’t a problem. Her response to that was that our Bishop wasn’t as spiritual as she was and the if he can’t tell that Jon was not worthy then maybe he should be excommunicated. Back when Layk was born my mother in law prevented her own husband from being in the circle to give Layk a blessing because he wasn’t attending all of his meetings at church.
But anyway, once all these kids were baptized it was a huge relief. We could walk away from the church for good feeling like we had treated our kids equal and given our two younger ones the experience that they wanted. As Xayne and Layk have gotten older they can remember their baptisms, but they can’t remember what it was all about. They just remember it as a fun time getting to go get dunked in the water. We knew it didn’t matter one way or the other, eternal salvation was not longer an issue, and Jon and I were playing along in order to not only keep the peace, but also because we worried that if my mother in law found out she could potentially cause problems for the work. So we lived in secrecy for a while.
During this time, Jon and I were not active, and every time fast offerings came by I would tell them I would have to mail it in. I thought it was interesting that for a while we had visiting teachers still coming and we had home teachers still coming, but after a while they all stopped, however they still always came to collect fast offerings. Luckily we haven’t seen them since Covid started.
Just before we started studying the work, I was given a calling at church. This one actually excited me. I was called to dress up the bulletin boards in the church house and do the weekly programs. This made me very happy because I didn’t have to actually go to church to do it! I could go in when no one was there to work on the boards and set out programs. I thought that maybe I could find quotes that would give a subliminal message about Real Truth. I put my photoshop skills to work as I helped the Relief Society prepare for their activities by creating logos for activities and flyers for announcements. I made programs for sacrament meeting that had LDS comics, crosswords or word searches on the back, none of which had ever been done before. I took it from a boring typed up list with no pictures to a full color interactive experience! I was creative with the bulletin boards and got a lot of great feedback on my efforts.
As I sat in on the Relief Society meetings I listened to them talk about the gospel, or I should say what they believed the gospel said. I found myself working really hard to bite my tongue and not say anything that would put me under the microscope. The more I looked for quotes for the bulletin boards and the programs the more disgusted I got with what the leaders of the church were teaching. I realized that I really didn’t have any idea what this church taught. I was sick to my stomach as I found out the truth about Real Truth and about the church and it baffled me that no one else saw it. Of course the only reason I was seeing it was because I was learning Real Truth at the same time. I started looking for a polite way to get out of my calling. I knew I wasn’t going to get through to any one with any subliminal messages. Fortunately our ward was reorganized and we had a new bishop and with him came a new Relief Society. They asked me to stay on in my calling but I declined so that I could make my quiet exit from the church.
At this point our family is considered inactive members of the church. We have not asked to have our names removed. We don’t want to be the cause of unwanted drama in a small town. However we have recently gotten
more vocal about our involvement in the work, and even more so with the Humanity Party. Many of my friends on facebook are faithful members in my ward and I am shocked that Jon and I still have not been called in to be asked about our involvement with the MWAW.
Supporting the MWAW
In 2016 Jon and I worked up the courage to go to the MWAW Symposium. It happened to be the same weekend as my Radford family reunion, and it was the year that I was in charge of the reunion! Earlier that year my sister looked at me and said “I don’t want to be in charge of the reunion, but I don’t want (our brother) to be either, so it’s up to you.
We took our camper and our cooker, a kitchen on wheels that my dad designed and built, and parked them at the campground at Bear Lake. Then we drove on to Salt Lake and spent the night in a hotel. We left Mitchell and Jonee to babysit the 4 little guys while we went to the library to the Symposium. We didn’t know anyone and our social awkwardness got the better of us. We did the best we could to slink into the woodwork and not be noticed. We sat near Dominic Larkin on the balcony who had brought in his own beverage to enjoy during the presentation, which he ended up spilling on himself and he just looked at us and grinned. He was very nice to us.
After the presentation the group moved to a different part of the library and we wished we could have stayed but we not only needed to get back to our kids, we also had to get back and help about 120 family members find their camping sites and host the next 3 days of food and fun.
Luckily the following year the reunion was on a different weekend which allowed us to try and be brave again and sign up to be part of the book review. This 2 day event ripped us out of our comfort zone where we wanted to be quiet observers and it plopped us right into socializing with people that had been following the work longer than we had. There was no escaping not getting noticed! We were greeted right inside the door by 3 of the sweetest people I have ever met, one of whom threw her arms around me for a big hug! I was really taken back by this. she didn’t know me at all but that hug felt like she was just a sister I hadn’t met yet.
This was an incredible experience. Jon and I were quiet and listened to everyone else talk. We only talked to a few people at our table and a few that came to introduce themselves. At the end of the day Jon and I would walk past homeless people at Temple Square and we felt the cognitive dissonance as we had just eaten some of the finest food we had ever had and we wondered what was going to happen to the left overs. We wished we could have taken all of it and handed it out to these people, but we knew that wouldn’t solve the problem. We knew what would solve the problem but how to get the people to see and accept the solution was hard to think about.
We spent the night talking about all the things that had gone through our heads during the day and then go to sleep. The second day of the book review started out as if Christopher had been listening to our conversation the night before. He talked about many of the same things that we had discussed between ourselves. I kept looking over at Jon and I could tell he was just as dumbfounded as I was.
As we stood in the line for lunch Christopher saw us and left his place in line to come talk to us. He grabbed Jon’s hand and shook it and said, “Ya made it!” it floored me! He said it as if he had always known us, like I have heard my own father greet his brothers countless times. My brain turned off as I just sat there in awe for a moment. I thanked him for saving our marriage. He simply said he didn’t save it, that we had saved our own marriage. Technically true, but that wouldn’t have happed if it hadn’t have been for the message that he delivered. I helped prove the point that Christopher made later that we are not as smart as we think we are and that we just are not getting it! I thought I had gotten it. I thought that I had on a surrealistic level actually figured out what the book we
had reviewed was trying to teach us. I know now how very little of it actually did soak in, but by reading that one it helped open my mind up to what was going to follow in the future and helped make other things make more sense as we learned them.
There was a Meet and Greet after the book review that day. Jon and I did a drive by but decided we needed to get on the road back home. There was also going to be a Blog Talk show that night that we wanted to listen to. It was obvious how frustrated Christopher was with all of us and I remember him cutting us all off that night. I cried all the way home to Wyoming. I felt horrible knowing that I was part of the problem in the world even though I was trying so hard to be a better person and to understand what was trying to be taught. I was just starting to feel like we might be accepted into a cool group of people. I was excited about getting involved, but then I felt I had messed up. I had not yet learned that there was a lot of ups and downs if you are going to be a supporter of the MWAW. I learned that some people couldn’t handle it for one reason or another and would leave the work. I had no idea what was happening behind the scenes that was also affecting things. I still had a lot to learn and part of that was learning to stand steady in a storm, not only as a supporter, but in my personal life as well.
The Storm Hits
Things were breaking down diplomatically between us and Jon’s sister and his mother. Jon’s mother had come to my salon and asked us to adopt the kids so that we could have them sealed to us in the temple. We had tried telling her about he work years before but her and Jon’s dad flat out rejected it. We figured out that Jon’s mother would become a venomous hater of Christopher and the work so Jon convinced her that he had also rejected it. We kept the work from her to protect the work and therefore we let her believe that we still had an LDS mindset. I told her that we would love to adopt the kids but there was a lot that needed to happen if that was going to be the goal. Shortly after that conversation, Jon’s mother declared that his sister had been cured of her Paranoid Schizophrenia and that she was ready to get her kids back. I threw the breaks on that fast! I told her that it was wonderful that her daughter was feeling better but Schizophrenia was not something you could cure and that it was too soon to tell if there was going to be a relapse. Jon’s mom didn’t like what I had told her and she when straight to her daughter and told her that Jon and I were planning on adopting the kids out from under her. She failed to mention that it was her own idea.
This set loose a fury in Jon’s sister. She stopped communication with us and started looking for a lawyer. We fought hard to keep the kids. We spent thousands of dollars on lawyers. It came down to the very same judge that sent Jon’s sister to a mental hospital for a second time for hearing voices telling her to kill her husband, that told us that because the case was in the civil court system and not the juvenile system he intended to give them their kids back “so that they can fail” so that the Dept. of Family Services will get involved. We were devastated. Not just for us but because these boys were going back into an abusive situation. These boys had been with us for 3 years. Logan was 1 year old when we got them. Even though we had struggled to begin with, we were past all that. We had gotten through all the bad stuff and they were really becoming wonderful individuals. We loved them as our own and I felt my heart ripped out that day.
Again the questions returned about what any of our higher selves wanted from this experience. We decided that if we couldn’t raise them, we wanted to keep them in our lives so that we could be the sane voice for them in a home of mental illness. We decided to sign the kids back to them as long as we had Caretaker Visitation Rights which gave us monthly visits and 15 days in the summer. They agreed, but after 4 months stopped giving us our visitations. We had to go to court to have our rights upheld. During the court session we thought we caught a break because Jon’s sister said that she had never heard voices telling her to kill anyone ever. We were in front of the same judge that sent her to a mental institution for hearing voices telling her to kill her husband. But once she got off the stand that judge turned to us and said, “Some people raise their kids with bruises and there’s nothing you can do about it.” Then he turned to Jon’s sister and said, “Believe me (Jon’s sister) I wouldn’t want them in my life either!” He upheld our summer visitations but told us to communicate and figure out the monthly visits. We still have not gotten our monthly visits and at this point can’t afford to keep throwing money at a lawyer. We also found out the other things this judge did that were bias. He didn’t have to give them their kids back, he just could have transferred it to the correct court system. We realized that we would never win as long as this guy was our judge.
I felt it important to tell all of this because of how many times I heard that we had to be willing to give everything up in order to support this work. I had not fully grasped that yet but as time goes by and more things happen in our lives, I start to gain different perspectives on this.
Learning to do Good Works
I have been cutting hair for 27 years at this point. I have talked to many people through the years and have listened to a wide variety of perspectives on different subjects. I have made various attempts over the years to try and give my opinion to people that I think are open minded enough to have at least a civil discussion. I can tell within the first couple minutes how well any person is willing to receive new information. Most of the time my customers are very set in their ways and they take it upon themselves to correct me or point out the errors in my line of thinking, which I let them do and let them think they are educating me, with the exception of a few that I really hoped would look into it further if I could show the flaw in their thinking.
There have been a few times that I think I might be getting through to a few of them. They seem very excited during the conversation and are very agreeable, but the next time they come in for a cut I find that I did not get anything through to them at all. One of them got so excited and told me how nice it was to talk to someone that is so “like minded”. Yet the next several conversations with her let me know that she never really listened to anything I said, and she and I were no where near “like minded”. I have written down the Humanity Party website for a couple of people only to have them come back and I wait for them to bring up the subject, but they don’t.
More and more I just let everyone believe what they want to believe. My salon is not where I want to have political or religious debates. I still might just throw a little comment out there once in a while, but I know that I do not have the ability to change anyone’s hearts or minds, so I am just as agreeable as I can and try to be a good example. I even have one lady that tells me that she would like to see me run for local office and she wants me to participate on her political facebook page. I joined the group and just sat back and watched what they talked about and I thought, “Nope, she would definitely NOT want me to run for any office.” I admit that I fantasize once in a while about giving a town hall meeting or a stump speech and getting everyone to want to vote for the Humanity Party platform, but I am not the right personality type so it will stay in my fantasies.
I have found that I enjoy doing things for others that put to use my skills, that also bring me joy. I love using photoshop for example and I like taking and adjusting pictures. I recently put my genealogy skills to use for my brother. He had told me that he had taken a DNA test to see what region of the world he came from. He comes from Great Britain and wasn’t thrilled when I told him that I could have told him that without him spending money on a DNA test! I couldn’t have known that with positivity, but logically I knew his mother used LDS services to put him up for adoption and knowing that most of the immigrants in the early church came from that area in the world, chances were high that that’s where his DNA would lead. So he challenged me to find his birth mother for him.
I tried off and on through the years. But I would either hit a road block, or my brother would piss me off in one way or another so I would stop trying to help him. Through that DNA sample he found that he had a 98% chance of having a cousin. Turns out it was not a cousin, but a half sister that shared the same father. My brother found out that he had 8 more siblings. My brother invited me and my sister to come meet his new family. It was a fun event. I learned a few things about his father, who had passed on, that gave me a couple of leads and that encouraged me to keep looking for his mother for him. A couple months later I had a name for him and a last known address and phone number. I warned him that some people might not like their past dug up and to be respectful. This was the case as her family knew nothing about him and she did not want her secret revealed, but he did see her face to face and he thanked her for giving him life and chance to grow up with a wonderful family. A week or two later my brother forward a message to me from a lady that said that she used to be married to his mother’s brother and that would make her his aunt and her daughter, Chandi, would be his cousin. I just remember thinking, “huh, that’s funny, I know a Chandi.” Before the end of the day my brother was calling me and asking how I know Chandi. He had looked her up on facebook and found that they had 1 mutual friend, me! I was totally floored! We all were! Yep, my best friend from 5th grade is my brothers 1st cousin.
Honey, Not Vinegar
Recently I came to realize and have a real understanding of what “Jesus” said on the cross, “Father forgive them for they no not what they do”. I started to be able to forgive my mother in law and my sister in law and her husband because I realized that they truly do not know what they are doing. The things they do to people are intentional, but it is not based in reality. Because of their pride and egos they don’t realize how much pain they cause not only me and Jon but others as well. I use to confront my mother in law on the things she did that offended others because I felt like I needed to relieve the stress and anxiety that she caused. This only made her hate me more. I finally gave up trying to save people from her. I will let these 3 in laws continue to follow the gods in their heads that tell them to do things that the rest of us think are about a dozen eggs short of a bakers dozen.
I also realized that I myself do not “know what I do” until after the fact, but at least I have the mental faculties to learn from my mistakes. Sometimes I have to make the mistakes a few times, but I eventually learn, or at least realize that I haven’t learned yet! I also realize that it is up to me to be more patient and kind because they will always blame me for the events of the past. After I realized this myself, it was the very next episode of Coffee with Chris that he talked about this very subject. There is no doubt in my mind that Christopher is connected and knows us! He is a messenger here to tell us what we need to do to save humanity. We have to listen if we are going to save ourselves.
For the last few years I have had as little as possible to do with my mother in law. in Sept of 2017 I had documented proof that my mother in law lied to me. I confronted her but didn’t tell her I had proof and in the end I let her “win” the argument. I got up and left the room but left my cell phone there to record what happened next. As soon as I was out of ear shot she said, “How did she find out about that! It’s like the devil told her!” I had just had enough of being the one who is always there to fix everything and take charge because Jon’s parents couldn’t do it, or make a decision, or at times they didn’t know what do so I would go to their rescue, only to be made out to be evil and in “league with Satan” after the mess was cleaned up. I swore I would leave them to their own hell and no longer rush in to save the day.
I was letting a lawyer tell me what I needed to be doing to keep custody of Connor and Logan or what to do to get them back. None of the things we were told to do were kind things. We may have been right in the way the world thought of right and wrong, but we were starting to admit to ourselves that we were wrong because of our pride and egos and we needed to change our goals, and soften our hearts.
Recently my father in law’s cancer returned and spread. My mother in law and I were not on speaking terms and Jon’s sister won’t speak to us either. My father in law was life flighted to Salt Lake City and we were told that he might not survive. Jon and I knew that his mom would need someone to take her to Utah because she can’t drive in the city. Jon’s sister had two jobs and now had custody of Connor and Logan and a husband who worked nights. She had no babysitter, a kidney stone, no driving experience in Salt Lake, leaving after dark to travel through a blizzard to take her mother to be with her father, a husband that freaks out easily and takes his frustrations out on his boys and no one to keep him in check... so we rushed in to save the fucking day.
We get to the hospital just on time to see them load my father in law into the ambulance to be taken to a lear jet. We approach Jon’s mom and sister to tell them that we are driving her to Salt Lake. To our complete shock, Jon’s sister, who hates our guts, threw her arms around Jon and started crying. My mother in law hugged me and then Jon’s sister hugged me also. We agreed to set our issues aside for their dad’s sake and we told her to take care of her kids, and we got on the road.
I spent the next 20 hours feeling like the last 5 years had never happened as I listened to my mother in law talk about the same stuff she was talking about back then. I kept thinking to myself that I needed to be like my own mom and be kind. I lost count of how many times I bit my tongue. I was extremely frustrated because 9 months ago when my father in law’s cancer returned I was telling them that they needed to prepare for the eventuality that he was going to die and they didn’t have any end of life plans in place, no will, no trust, no life insurance, no savings. They were angry with me that I thought he was going to die. My mother in law had convinced her husband through her “special gifts” that this was Christ’s second coming and that Jesus would cure him. I tried the “better be safe than sorry” argument but because she still hated me, she was not going to let me help because she thought I was going to do something underhanded to steal something from them. Even though everyone else in the family was telling them the same thing, I was the bad guy. So I backed off and thought that this must be the hell they have to go through. I can’t force them to do what is in their best interest so if they lose it all in probate, so be it.
Now that they realize that there is nothing left to do medically for Jon’s dad, my mother in law now is asking for my help in making all of the end of life decisions and preparations that she refused to let me help with earlier this year. I was determined to listen to my mother and use honey not vinegar! I was going to apply what I had learned with the MWAW and treat her the way she would want to be treated. All the years I wasted trying to get her to understand that she was wrong and didn’t think like everyone else, that she isn’t more spiritual than everyone else, and that it was all a part of her mental illness, and her being furious at me for accusing her of being mentally ill. By changing tactics with her I was able to make a little progress by talking to her on her level and keeping my opinion to myself.
Every day that goes by my heart softens towards them little by little. Everyday that goes by has another story to tell. My mother in law is in denial again and I caught her trying to take off his bracelet that shows that he has a DNR (do to resuscitate). She said that he didn’t need it anymore because he was fine now that he is out of the hospital. I give my sister in law a lot of credit because she helped her brother clean the hoarded house to make it as safe as possible for their dad. Their mother gave them permission to do it, but after she saw it she had a meltdown and started throwing things at her daughter. These two women that have brought so much hell into my life are now going through their own hell and I find myself wanting to make it all better for them. I wish they understood things how I do.
I actually surprised myself a bit because I was feeling bad for them. I had been joking with another sister in law that I couldn’t wait for them to turn on each other and to start treating each other the way they had been treating me. I wanted karma to slap them in the face a few times. But when that time came I found myself incredibly sad for them. I know I have not been a good person because I really did want them to fail. I wanted vindication. I wanted validation. I wanted Connor and Logan back. But now watching them go through what I had wished on them, I wanted to help relieve their suffering.
Jon’s dad will not be with us much longer. I am so grateful to have the work. I have a much different understanding of how to handle these touchy situations. I had to let my pride and ego go before I could understand that I was a big part of the problem. I know I will still get frustrated, I know they will start pushing my buttons again, but I know that I can remain calm a lot better than I use to. I have learned that there is no use in arguing with them. I have learned that I will get further with honey than I will with vinegar, and I have learned that EVERYONE IS RIGHT, WHICH MAKES EVERYONE WRONG! and I owe it all to the MWAW.
Broken Heart and Contrite Spirit
One last thought that I would like to share. I never thought I was a prideful person until recently. I always thought that the experiences I had in my life kept me grounded but in reality, but it had the opposite affect. Even after finding the work I am constantly fighting the feelings of being special because I have ears that hear and eyes that see. But I am realizing that I am only slightly less deaf and slightly less blind. The more I learn, the more I understand. The more I understand, the more I realize I have more to learn!