Mormon from My Eyes: Bruce Bastian
The Truth Shall Set You Free
Words by Bruce Bastian
I grew up in Idaho in a town of fewer than 25,000 people. I was the fifth child in a Mormon family of six kids. Going to church every Sunday was part of life, but being a Mormon is more than just going to church on Sunday. It is a way of life. It is where you spend time with family and friends several times a week.
Looking back at my life as an active Mormon, I think the church wants it to be the major part of your life. That way, you have less time to think for yourself. It also makes it more difficult to “stray.”
When I was growing up, no one spoke about anyone being gay. We didn’t really talk about anyone’s sexual desires or activities. Sex was really taboo, as it still is in many families. I had good friends who had sex with girls and talked or boasted about it. I just kept my mouth shut and listened. I was constantly afraid that someone - a friend or family member - would be able to tell that girls didn’t turn me on. The thought of being “different” was very frightening to me. I was taught that I would lose my family, not just in this lifetime, but throughout all eternity. My “sin” would also cast a dark shadow over the rest of my family.
It was a heavy guilt trip.
I tried everything my church taught me to do so that I could be “normal” and happy. I went to BYU (Brigham Young University, owned and run by the Mormon church). I went on a mission - to Italy of all places. (That's me with my cousin Carol Bastian just before I left. And yes, Italians were as hot then as they are now.) Eventually, I did as my church strongly suggested, and got married. I was such a good Mormon, I was asked to be in the Bishopric of our local ward (like the local parish). Of course, none of those things changed who I really was or the thoughts in my head. The guilt only got worse. I seriously believed I didn’t deserve to be happy.
But then I started questioning things that the Mormon Church taught. I knew I wasn’t a bad person, but the church taught that I was. So I started reading books from the church and about the church. I also got my hands on documents that Bishops were supposed to read but regular members were not.
The hateful, mean rhetoric from the leadership in Salt Lake City stunned and frightened me. As far as they were concerned, it would have been better if I had not even been born. The turning point, however, was when I witnessed how the church treated other “sinful” people that I knew. I saw the local leaders, each with individual flaws, sit in judgment of others. The “sinful” people were just unlucky or didn’t lie as well.
When I actually fell in love with a guy, my life became hell. It was hell because of the guilt I felt - the guilt I had been taught to feel. I loved my family, but I was IN love with someone I was told I could not love. It took a few years for me to come to terms with that, but somehow I found the courage to be myself and stop lying to everyone around me.
I did not wait for the Mormon Church to take me to their church court (in front of local “flawed” men) and excommunicate me. I wrote a letter, as you are required to do, and asked that my name be taken off the church records. I basically said I didn’t want to be a member of the Mormon Church any longer. It was not an easy letter to write, but it was probably the best letter I ever wrote. It finally set me free to be my real self and stop lying to myself and others. Just as the scripture, John 8:32, says, the truth finally set me free.
Today I do not believe in the teachings of the Mormon Church. I do not believe the leaders of the church are inspired any more than I am. They are men. Some of them are good men, but I believe some are not. I believe many in leadership positions in the Mormon Church are there for local fame and power. (And there is a LOT of power and money in the Mormon Church.)
The church has no part in my life, and I feel that is a good thing. They do, however, play a big role in the lives of my children and their families. That continues to harm the relationship I can have with my children and grandchildren. I am invited to family events, but they are rarely if ever at my home. I have not been allowed to witness any of my son’s weddings because I am not allowed inside the Mormon temples. The church still teaches my children and their families that I am not “worthy” of their total love and acceptance. That, in my opinion, is not what a church should do.
Of course, my years as a Mormon affected my life in many ways. On balance, I can’t say if it affected me more positively or negatively. I learned good things as a Mormon. I have an ex-wife who is one of my best friends, and four wonderful sons. However, the Mormon Church caused me a lot of grief and depression, and their teachings caused my family a lot of pain that I don’t believe is justified.
Today I see the Mormon Church as one of the most evil organizations on earth. I don’t believe any church that teaches to cast out or hate others who are different from you has any true relationship with God. Being a spiritual person has nothing to do with going to church. Following “God” is more about personal honesty, respect, kindness, and unconditional love.
Those values I learned much more from my parents than from my church.
Top photo: GEORGE FREY/AFP/Getty Images