I am reading the book The 19th Wife by David Ebershoff for my Book Club and really enjoying it. The book is about the polygamy in the Church of the Latter Day Saints (the Mormons) and has two storylines. The first storyline takes place in the present day in a cult offshoot of the Latter Day Saints. A man’s 19th wife is accused of killing him, but the son believes that his mother is innocent. The second storyline is a historical fiction account of Brigham Young’s 19th wife and her reasons for speaking out against polygamy.
Although I am enjoying the book, there are parts that I find triggering due to having been raised by a religious fanatic who also abused me. I kept thinking that my mother would have fit right in with the cult offshoot because the protagonist’s mother sounds eerily like my mother – doing hurtful things to others in the name of a deity. She does not seem to give any thought to basic common sense or decency. She has bought into the authority of someone else and given all of her power away in the name of religion when she is really just taking no responsibility for her own choices. How many times did my mother harm or neglect me in the name of religion?
Many readers have shared that they, too, were abused by religious fanatics. I have heard everything from being raped by pastors/deacons to missionaries. The worst part is that these abusers are revered by the many, which makes it doubly hard for the abuse victim to feel validated – How can someone so “good” by all account be abusing me like this?
My mother is no saint, but you sure could not tell her that. She is like a religious puppet – espousing all of the things that she believes she is supposed to say to “be religious” while putting very little of the responsibilities of her religion into practice. The sad thing is that I bought into her self-declarations of being so “godly” for much, much longer than I should have.
I vividly remember the moment that I finally challenged the truth of my mother’s claims. For decades, I had taken for granted that my mother was “g*dly” and I was not. She “heard from G*d” while I did not, and I was so angry with G*d for choosing her over me. The moment the blinders fell off my eyes was huge for me! I finally saw her for what she was – a self-deluded liar who did not bear any of the “fruit” that should exist in the life of a person who is truly g*dly. I realized that descriptors like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control did not apply to her … not even close. That awareness was a huge step in healing for me. The proof was always there, but it took me a long time to see it.
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