Wednesday, August 26, 2015

An Epiphany About My Epiphany to Leave Mormonism Part 2


When my daughter told me that she vehemently wanted to have her name removed (which I have not done), I thought about her Mormon extended family members approaching me and saying, "Why would you allow that?"

And I thought about how I would answer.

"It's her decision."

"She wanted it and I couldn't deny her of that."

"Why wouldn't I allow it??"

And then I realized, as I contemplated possible responses, that I should be able to reply to my OWN reasons for wanting to be severed from the church.  And I do indeed feel as though I've severed myself from the organization, regardless of being on the records or not.

But WHAT could I say that wouldn't warrant the typical responses of, Ashley just didn't truly have a testimony OR Ashley doesn't understand the meaning of Joy (an actual thing that's been said to me) OR Ashley didn't do all the things she should have done.  

So I went back.  I thought very deeply about the time that I pulled away.

And I realized that I tried damn, fucking hard to stay.

Go back and read my previous post!

I say it ALL in my initial post of this blog, as well.  I was/did/said/believed everything.

I wanted desperately to be able to explain myself in a way that couldn't warrant any- ANY- dismissive response.  I needed it for me.  As a final rite of passage through my former identity as a LATTER-DAY SAINT.

And I discerned very easily that there wasn't one thing that I could have done more thoroughly, more acutely,  more intensely than I'd already done or had been doing.

I was so earnestly looking for a reason to stay.

And nothing ever felt good.

So, tell me, what can you say to that?  Can you truly write me off as a lost cause, as someone who maybe just didn't get it?

I was born 'in the covenant'.  I was baptized at 8.  I went to BYU looking for kinship.  I married worthily in the temple.  I scrapbooked!

And... as I referenced in the previous post... I, Pamela Ashley Wilkinson Neves, at the age of 35, after a  lifetime of being a truly good Mormon girl, felt... done.

There was nothing more to do.

There was nothing more to be done.

There was nothing that I did half-heatedly or incorrectly.

And I felt abandoned. And an aloneness that I'd never experienced before in my life.

It truly was like a death.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

An Epiphany About My Epiphany to Leave Mormonism Part 1

"Ashley left Mormonism cuz her husband was gay."

I just gotta think that people wanna simplify my excruciating journey away from the church in this way.  Or something similar.  Regardless of the pain of so many major events for me (the Prop 8 summer, my divorce, this talk by Boyd K. Packer, my bishop rolling his eyes at me when I needed help paying rent although I'd been a full tithe and fast offering payer for 20 years, to name a few).

I also gotta think that a lot of active members that I know have to try really hard to stay in the church.  Like I did for years.  And when I was trying really hard to stay in it, I would see friends who'd left and think, "They're not trying as hard as I am (hair flip)."

Ever since I've considered myself done with Mormonism (i.e., Ashley no longer believes nor participates) one of my greatest distresses has been that I haven't known quite how to articulate to still believing members why I left.  Not to convince them that they should leave or that I'm right and they're wrong, but to simply help them understand me. 

In all honesty, I haven't really tried.  I mean, really really tried.

I know all the pat assumptions/responses/dismissives that I'd get. 

I've used a few analogies. A common one used in post-Mormon circles- my shelf broke.

This has to do with cognitive dissonance, shelving all those troublesome topics that we can't reconcile in our heart/with the teachings of the church, but we soldier on with Faith...until the shelf is so full that no amount of Faith will hold it up anymore, and it collapses. 

So I'd use that , but that distress would still be there.  I've had members say to me, "You'll come back.  When you're ready.  You will."  And that would make me slightly angry, because the subtext of a response like that is, You still believe deep down, and you didn't try hard enough to stay. 

Here's the thing:  I don't believe anymore.

And I did try.

And this is where I get to the point. 


How many times do members have a 'trial of faith' on some level?  Minor trials of faith to a full-blown faith crisis?  On that broad spectrum, each member finds themselves somewhere one time or another.  It's not to say that members go back and forth between completely losing and regaining their faith, per se (although some do), but more commonly, asking innocently 'why' or 'how' to this or that... because we're human beings attempting to live a 'higher law' that we don't always understand. 

So we have these 'trials of faith', and what do we do?  We delve into the scriptures more.  We pray more.  We go to the temple with our questions.  We seek priesthood blessings.  We read our Ensign. We study our Sunday School lessons in advance.  We pay a full tithe, if we haven't already.  We make a more concerted effort to pay fast offerings.  We serve others. We bear our testimony so that we can hear ourselves saying that we still believe.  And sometimes, we just ignore.  

And check. 

Usually, we are sure to cross all the T's and dot all the I's before we hit Faith Crisis Status.

Instead of leaving for lack of trying, like so many active members want to believe about those who've left, I left because I did try.

And in that trying, I felt more and more depleted.

I felt less and less hope.

After weeks on end of doing all those things I listed above, and thinking outside of the box, trying new things, like asking my active friends, "Why do you stay? How do you stay? Help!"...    I was just empty.

It was like my faith was dead on the operating table, and the repeated, desperate defibrillation was in vain.

And then what?

I asked myself some goooood questions.

What did I miss? 
What's wrong with me? 
What did I do wrong? 


Nothing. Whatsoever.

And I looked around and all I could see was that Shelf.

The faith, and even hope, I'd had that was now dead couldn't divert my attention from my wobbly Shelf.

And I felt like an asshole.

How could I have so proactively denied blatant shit storms going on all around me within the church- the homosexuality issues being only one of them.


Why the sudden need for me to say all this now?  My daughter had her name removed from the records of the church at the 4th Annual Mass Resignation last month.  And it got me to thinking.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015 BYU

I'm feeling pretty fantastic right now.  I just finished off a bottle of Cabernet that I opened a couple of nights ago. 

I should mention-  I moved to Salt Lake City. 

So, I'm in Salt Lake, and that means that I have some of Me Olde BYU friends to connect with. 

They are spread out all over the Spectrum (the Mormon/Not-Mormon-Anymore Spectrum). 

Today, I met with Ye Olde friend, Ben.  He's adjunct faculty at, yes, The BY. 

Yesterday, he had said, "Let's meet at the slab."  For a BYU theatre person, we know that means the slab of granite that resides on the 3rd floor of the Harris Fine Arts Center. 

I spent countless hours in the HFAC.  Countless.  When I didn't have classes elsewhere on campus, I was there.  Theatre classes, rehearsals, performances, watching plays, parties, naps, shooting the shit. 

And, of course, this is where I met Matt. 

You guys know, if you've read posts in this blog or ever ever ever talked to me, that I was happy with the divorce.  We both were.  Both very amicable and on the same page, as it were.  But, boy... the BAGGAGE. 

The last time I cried about all that in relation to Mormonism at all was probably 4 years ago. 

Today, I cried again. 

But, first, The Slab.  The first thing I said to Ben, when I met him at the Slab, was, "So many emotions being here." 

His response, "That was actually the first thing I was gonna ask you about." 

We went to his office and talked for a bit about just that. 

The Theatre Department (the professors, the students, the program) is what saved me from utter seething bitterness while I was at The Lord's University.  If you appreciate the Arts, in any way, you know what I mean.  Open-mindedness.  Safety.  Permission to be human.  Expectation to be human. 

So, as I sat chatting with Ben in his office, feeling things that were as tangible as my flesh- wonderful feelings of a past home and meaty rememberances of emptiness- I cried.  And these tears thanked me as they seeped out of my eyeballs.  "Ashley!  Thank you for releasing us!  You've kept us in for so long!" 

They were special tears.  Special Ashley's-Time-at-BYU-is-in-a-Separate-Compartment-From-Leaving-Mormonism-in-General tears. 

It felt kinda great.  And Ben kept apologizing that I was crying.  (You're so sweet, Ben!)

In other words, today, at BYU, I did some healing.  "Thank you, BYU!  Thank you, Universe!  Thank you, Angels!  Thank you, Oprah!  Thank you, Tom Cruise!"

I told Ben about that feeling you have when you know something's wrong- a pit in your stomach, like a nausea.  I told Ben that I had that feeling everyday of my marriage. 

I told Ben about how unhappy I was, as a person, at BYU and then later in life, feeling betrayed because, I followed the formula.  The formula for happiness.  T's:  crossed.  I's:  dotted.  Every goddamn one. 

I talked to Ben about all our mutual friends who were in BYU Theatre with us, who were hiding and closeted and TRYING.  SO.  FUCKING. HARD.  to be whateverrrrrrr it was The Church wanted them to be.  (you know...straight.)

I cried and cried and mother effing cried. 

I wasn't prepared for this.  I felt stupid at first.  But I was with one of the best possible people for this unplanned, unexpected, unpretty outburst to occur.  I was in a safe place, and this stuff needed to come out.

Ben said some amazing things that I don't know if are okay to repeat.  He IS adjunct at the BY...

I did some healing because of my visit to BYU and with Ben.  But it only scratched the surface. 

BYU was a huge chunk of my life.  My first time away from home.  A place I went looking for Identity.  A place that I needed to feel like I'd made it. 

And now, just having had a shot of Vodka, I go to bed to postpone digging deeper than the surface... for now.  I unearthed some shit, y'all. 

Monday, December 30, 2013

(NO TITLE) or 2013

I didn't post very much in 2013. My blogger is full of half-done, choppy, unpolished drafts which is quite indicative of how my year went. So to flush these thoughts from from my blogger and to do some mental housekeeping, I've created a post for the end of the year comprised of these 'partial posts'. 

January 3, 2013 on Divorce

(no title) 

The effects of divorce are like the ripples from a disturbance in the water. 

February 8, 2013 on Mormonism and Prop 8 

(no title) 

I remember back in '08 or '09, when I was still going to Relief Society on Sundays at the Mormon church, a friend of mine gave a lesson based on a recent talk by a general authority. 

In reality, her lesson was the talk. She spent most of the lesson time (roughly 40 minutes) reading right from it, because, to paraphrase her words, she just couldn't say it any better than than him. 

The gist of the lesson, I believe, was for those of us members who were not in favor of the Prop 8 festivities, which in essence was 'let's not forget who we are'.

Obviously, that was a hard one for me to sit through. 

I remember my friend, the giver of said lesson, was blushing and not looking up at us very much at all as we listened. 

She confessed to me later that she purposefully didn't look at me. 

February 10, 2013 on Ada and Baptism

(no title) 

I'm at church per Ada's request. 

She asked me to be present at her It's Great To Be 8 meeting for kids turning 8 this year and their parents. 

In the Mormon church, you are typically baptized at the age of 8. 

I was. 

My ex husband was. 

My boyfriend was. 

All 3 of my other kids were. 

My brother. My sister. The list goes on. 

June 19, 2013 on Work, Daughters, and Lack of Sleep

(no title)

I can't sleep. 

Having work dreams. Retail dreams. 

I have a new boss. I have the same job, just new boss. I feel like I'm auditioning for him. 

My stomach is in knots. 

Not just because of work, but tonight there was something nagging me, in the back of my mind. Then it surfaced... It was Hana. 

I haven't seen her in 3 days. My daughter. Then I thought about how 'normal' that has become. 

Then I thought about Emma...

Emma needs glasses. 

Emma is in Utah. 

Emma... tall and beautiful and... well, that's about all I can say for sure right now. 

I haven't been eating. 

How can I eat when I have a new boss and daughters floating around in the ether and... oh yeah, I applied for grad school. 

July 17, 2013 on Being Unfriended

(no title)

It happened again. 


Was a BFF during adolescence. 


But here's the thing- I haven't been blogging that much lately.  That's usually been the culprit. 

But I HAVE been posting lots on FB about Love, Equality, and Acceptance. 

Too bad she didn't see it that way. 

Well, okay, to be fair, I have no clue why we're not FB friends anymore.  I haven't asked her.  I guess because I don't care enough.  Haven't seen her since I was 15.  

September 7, 2013 on Men

(no title)

On trying to get to know a man for the first time: Men seem so interested until you show them your personal power.  Bless all their little hearts. There is an epidemic of massive insecurity among men.  

On unhappily married men:  Men who don't love their wives still make babies with them. Surprise, surprise, their misery continues. Then, they will usually start looking elsewhere for love...typically while still married. 

September 16, 2013 on Luxuries

(no title)

Right now, I'm sitting on a couch. I love it. I did not have a couch in my apartment till last week. 8 months. No couch. Can I tell you how luxurious I feel at this moment? 

The thing is- couches are a luxury. You don't know this until you go without one for 8 months and realize, 'Huh. A couch is not a necessity. I'm grateful for the half gallon of milk in the fridge and the 1/4 tank of gas in my car.' Necessities. 

I'm grateful for this couch. Thank you Gina and Jerry. 

I'm grateful to have all my kids live with me again. 

I'm grateful for my job. 

My car. 

September 16, 2013 (yep, the same day as the last one) on Identity

(no title)

Who am I? 

I thought I was on the fast track to this epiphany. 

I'm lying in my redundant king-sized bed with my 8 year old daughter next to me. 

Before Ada drifted to sleep in a Benadryl-induced slumber, I taught her that no one can ever make you happy- not a boyfriend or husband... At best they can only ADD to your joy. You MUST be happy and content on your own first. 

I married Matt with the hope of finding completeness. That's what I had understood to be the idea due to my upbringing. 

How can two incomplete people make two complete people? I know what you're thinking... 'Well, you're like puzzle pieces, Ashley. That's how.' 

What I found to be truer was we were like 2 half-baked cakes. Two half-baked cakes do not a baked cake make. 

November 3, 2013 on Being a Mom

(no title)

I've never enjoyed motherhood as much as I do now...having been a mother for 15 and a half years. 


I was a lost girl when I started out. And the journey of finding myself and my womanhood was exceptionally stunted. I look back on that past life, and I see a girl in her 20's who was narcissistic and depressed. 

I also see little ones. Precious, perfect, angelic, indescribably astounding little human beings that were mine. Who did and said the most wonderful, cute, adorable things. 

But I was in a fog. 

Now half my little ones are teenagers and there's a 3rd one on his way to middle school next year. The fourth still cuddles with me and her stuffed animals. 

Regardless, I'm 38 and starting to figure things out. 

December 28, 2013 on Providing

(no title)

Earlier this year, I was standing in a food line at a local Baptist church. And, of course, I had the thought, Hmmm, if I'd stayed active in the Mormon church, I wouldn't have to stand in a food line... I could just sit across from my Bishop in his office and hand him copies of my bills... 

But whenever I have that thought, I quickly remember my last Bishop rolling his eyes when I asked for rent help for the 3rd or 4th month in a row. And yet, my single-mom friend who lived literally down the street from me, who did not work and got to be a full-time mom, was told by her bishop that he would provide her with anything and everything she needed. 

And there I was working two jobs... 

It was just the rent. I could pay for everything else... The utilities, the internet, food (made too much money for food stamps), endless toiletries, car insurance... You get it. 

Not gonna lie- I had regular lunch dates with a friend I consider a soul mate. $6 lunch specials at our fave Mexican spot in Cedar. Weekly. There were weeks when looking forward to that planned lunch date with her helped me survive. Unequivocally. 

In a way, since that time, I've come full circle. I make twice what I did then, working just as hard as I was before. And gladly, I do not need a bishop or a food line. Guess what else... Through my job, I can now provide health insurance for myself and my children. 

My hero? 


Friday, December 13, 2013

The Mormon Church Makes a New Statement About Past Restrictions on its Black Members

(For the record:  I never believed that God favored white people over people of any sort of color, because I'm not the matron of a plantation home in 1800's Louisiana.) 

So, okay...the church leaders of yore were racist. Okay. Sure. They were human beings. Got it.  

Next, it'll be a statement about women not having the priesthood because of sexism and not really revelation or anything pertinent to your testimony of the 'True Church'.  Then they'll take care of all the issues with the gays. Then...what? Will the church start retracting its claim to revelation on coffee and tea? Could it ever be?! 

This very recent statement on the blacks and the priesthood, or the Mitt Romney-inspired statement on diet coke (caffeinated sodas) that was a few decades too late, or the "Oh, but we DO love the gays, even though we've been disowning them in our family units generation after generation, and don't forget the part about how we don't want them to get married,"'s all so ...embarrassing. 

Here's a story that shook me up once upon a time: 

I remember hearing about this really great guy I knew who was Mormon. Devout. He'd had an affair. "Was he excommunicated?" I asked. This had been- and still can be, depending on the leader said adulterer has to deal with- the common repercussion to a member who commits adultery. "No. Just disfellowshipped," my friend told me. Being disfellowshipped in the Mormon church means you cannot partake of the sacrament on Sundays, or give a talk, teach a lesson or pray in a church meeting for a certain amount of time, but you still have member status. (I was disfellowshipped a few times in college for too much touchy-time with a boy or two.) 

"Just disfellowshipped?!" I asked incredulously. I relayed this story to other members over the next few days, emphasizing my confusion that this dude wasn't exed. What I learned was that the church was having to ex waaaayyyy too many members for adultery over the years. 

Yeah. They were losing members. 

Which brings me full circle...

Could the church be trying to keep members? 

You might ask "Would that be such a bad thing?" Perhaps not, but these are hot button issues for members- active, semi-active, and inactive members alike. These are issues that have truly tried the faith of many for generations and in that trial of faith, we had to trust with all our zeal that the church's stance was inspired of God or, just simply, look the other way. Otherwise, our testimonies would no doubt be in jeopardy. 

Which is what happened to mine.  If I disagree with the church on homosexuality, what else do I disagree with? I asked myself that question 6 years before I offically considered myself done. 

These defining, sometimes unfortunately so, Mormon dogmas and principles that are now either being retracted/reworded and apologized for were once based on and vehemently defended by the idea that they were revealed from God, whether or not they really were...apparently. 

Do you know how many times the mantra 'the prophet is the mouthpiece of God' is repeated and repeated and REPEATED within the walls of a Mormon church building or inside a Mormon home or in a conversation between members at Outback? This is a major tenet of Mormonism that I have never heard followed by the clause "as far as the prophet is interpretating God's words correctly". How can anyone possibly build a testimony of the True Church if we don't take a prophet's words at 100% face value? And now, to be told that the treatment of black members was just due to the racism of another time... It feels like a betrayal. 

You have to understand that this church doesn't change its mind on things because of cultural change. No freakin' way. 

Or does it? 

I know, I know. If you're Mormon and you're reading this, one of the thoughts you're having is But revelation can change if the change itself is a revelation. Or The church is run by imperfect men. 

In essence these thoughts tell me that each and every statement and/or revelation in the Mormon church leaves PLENTY of room for doubt. You can either just wait a few years for it to change, or you can cherry-pick your way through your testimony of The One True Church on the Earth Today. 

I couldn't stomach it anymore. 

One last note on the church and its statement on former restrictions on black members:  The bans were lifted 35 years ago; Brigham Young has been dead for 135.  Why is this explanation coming so late? So very, very late... 

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Hi, My Name is Ashley… And I Am… A Working Mom.

A curse of a parent? Your kids never really know how much you love them.

They don't get it. The won't. They can't.

It's okay.  It's the order of the Universe:  Fish swim.  Birds fly. Your kids don't know how much you love them.

They don't understand the tears you cry.  They don't understand your firm manner with them.  They don't understand that rules are really for their protection.

And they don't understand the sacrifices.

-Pricey vacations…vacations, at all, really
-Haircuts (mine)
-Pursuing my great love and passion, Theatre

-Matt and I staying married as long as we did…as long as we could

I recently started working 40 hrs/wk again- first time since Cedar City when I was working 2 part-time jobs.  I love my job.  I do.  I'm now an Assistant Manager at World Market, a company I loved as a shopper, and now as an employee on the management team.

After a couple of weeks, however, I came home and had a breakdown.  The kids actually didn't see this one.

Matt was over at the apartment, and he said, "...Wanna …talk?"

I managed to eek out, with surprising rigor, "Matt, I'm not raising my kids! (sob, sob, sob, blubber, gasp)"

After a perfectly timed pause, ala Matt Neves because he's a theatrics god, he said, "Ash… you're more available to them now than you were when you were a full-time mom."

I let this register.

Then asked, "Because… now… I don't want to kill myself?" (Remember the whole mixed-orientation marriage thing I did that one time...?)


I couldn't help but laugh.  Because, y'all, for some reason the truth can really be hilarious.

All the time, my oldest will ask, "When do you work today?"

I'll tell her and, 9 times out of 10, I get an "UGH" in response.

Even my oldest child, who is, ya know, a teenager, wants me home.  I'm mom.  The only one she's got.

I'd rather be with you, honey.  I would.  You're my child.  I love you in a way that consumes me.  My whole body, mind, soul.  Being.  It keeps me up at night.  It gets me up in the morning.  It's what drove me to upheave from Cedar City and 2 jobs to come to California to make my best attempt at making us the most cohesive family we can possibly be in this 'less-than' situation.  

But I HAVE to work.  To feed you.  To protect you from the elements. Don't you see?  First and foremost, I have to keep you alive.  

Ada makes pouty faces.  Emma doesn't seem to care.  Timothy, in true Timmy fashion, has become more and more affectionate, reaching out for tangible, palpable love, to reassure him.

And the oldest, Hana, her "UGH's" are only part of her reaction to mom being a breadwinner all of the sudden.  She's become my friend.

Interesting, isn't it?

My gift in this:

Embracing the moments.  Moments are incredible gifts.  I try to make them about peace and wisdom and laughter.



Just being in the same room.

But… it probably wouldn't hurt to go back on Zoloft.

Monday, November 4, 2013

This is a Rant. About Freedom.

So last night one of my teenaged girls said, "I'm gonna move to New York."

Inside, my reply was Hahahahahaha!

Outside, my reply was, "There are only 3 reasons to live in New York-"

Before I give you the 3 reasons, let me express to you how much I would LOVE- would love more than I love the Wynn buffet in Vegas- to live in NYC.  Or even just East.  I prefer East over West as far as the US goes.

Back to the 3 reasons, "#1 If you're a student, #2 if you make a crap ton of money, #3 if you have a very generous friend who agrees to let you stay on their couch for several months because you're trying for your big break as an artist of some sort."

I read somewhere this summer:  'Don't expect anyone to support you.  Maybe you have a trust fund.  Maybe you have a wealthy spouse.  But you never know when either one might run out on you.'

During the summer, I had serious talks with both of my teenage girls about Education/Money/Adulthood/Career Paths.  I like to call these talks "Freedom Talks".  I used all my passion to express to them with great emphasis the necessity of an advanced degree.

Just seems in today's world, a Bachelor's doesn't mean much anymore.  Work experience means infinitely more.  So, the next thing I conveyed to them was the necessity of consistent work experience, and if you aren't able to get a job for whatever reason, volunteer.  And put that shit on your resume.

They listened intently.  I explained to them my struggle with employment and being employable since my split with husband.  Since the days of raising kids and relying on Matt's income.  Period.

"You can't EVER rely on someone else to take care of you.  You MUST always be able to take care of yourself. And the amount of education plus work experience you can accrue equals your freedom."

That means do what it takes to be a professional, and, HELL, if you have a Master's you can always teach.  And, sweet Lord, teaching usually means health insurance!


Back to the idea of living in NYC… I've lived in Southern California, an hour away from L.A., for a year now.  Cost of living isn't as nuts, perhaps, as New York, but it's up there.  I've been living here in SoCal with none of things that I'm pushing for my girls.  And y'all know it's been hard.

I never ever ever want my kids to feel that fear and, sometimes, hopelessness that I felt.  Mouths to feed and where's the next meal?  What account is going to collections next?

(I have somehow made my way into retail management after only 2 years of really being in the work force.  This was a feat.  And it took caring about my job and not just a paycheck.  I'm unspeakably proud of myself and shamelessly sing my praises.  So, don't count me ungrateful.  I'm feeling a new sense of freedom that is brand new to my repertoire of emotion.)

I'm not sure if my "Freedom Talks" sunk in…

A couple days ago, I was talking to another teenaged girl about how next year is the time to make decisions about what schools to apply for.

Her reply, "I don't know if it's really worth it."

"UM, WHAT???!!!!!! What is the IT you are referring to????  School???????????"


"What is your plan to be successful??"

"Open a bake shop."

So that was the highlight of that conversation.