Why do Mormons think they are right?

"How could we believe such a thing?" - Two women turn their backs on the Mormon Church

Mormon ministers asked two believers for details about masturbation and pornography, but it took many years for women to break with the Church. Like many dropouts, they struggled with anger and loneliness.

"When you left, I was completely alienated, I still believed completely in the church at the time," says Renate Bader and looks over at Carmen Aracil. The two women are sitting in a café in the old town of Bern. You laugh a lot. But behind both lie years of strife and painful farewells, from friends and certainties. They were Mormons in heart and soul. Until they could no longer accept the crude beliefs the church represents and how it deals with homosexuals.

It is the story of an emancipation that never ran parallel - and yet brought the two friends to the same point.

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Renate Bader comes from a family with a long tradition in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, at least by Swiss standards. Her grandmother was baptized in Basel, one of the first in the city. Bader's father was married for the second time when he and the nanny had a daughter, Renate, in 1964. The church then expelled him for adultery. Because polygamy is frowned upon in the largest Mormon community, unlike in the early days of the 19th century.

The Father is repentant and is allowed to return to the Church after confessing all sins. Renate's parents, who have since moved to Bern, celebrate their sealing in the temple in Zollikofen. “That's what we call the wedding ceremony - I mean, call it that you she, I still have to get used to it, ”says Bader today.

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Carmen Aracil, whose real name is different, grew up in Valais, in a "dead Catholic" family. Your Spanish mother spent her childhood as an orphan with nuns. Carmen doesn't know her father, she is the result of a rape. In 1968, when the daughter was six years old, the mother married a Swiss man.

Carmen also attends the convent school and soaks up Catholic piety. As a teenager, she feels that she is somehow different. But that's not what people talked about in Valais in the 1980s. When she was 19, she met a Mormon missionary, and that changed everything.

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Renate Bader goes to the secular grammar school in Kirchenfeld, but she lives in a parallel society. The family, all friends are Mormons. She is not allowed to go to the class camp, the father fears a bad influence. A relationship with a non-Mormon: unthinkable, even for Renate herself. When she falls in love with a Spaniard, she tries to win him over to the church, but fails. At 19 she went on a mission to Ireland, then to study German at Brigham Young University in the Mormon state of Utah.

Renate meets her husband, an American. They have two children. Renate is happy in the USA and wants to do a doctorate. But her husband loves Switzerland and asserts himself. "That's the way it is with the Mormons, even if my husband is not overly dominant: the husband is the patriarch." Back in Bern, she works as an English teacher at a private school, two more children follow. In addition to work and family, there is not much time to think about yourself and your worldview.

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Carmen Aracil and the missionary fall in love. “That was totally weird for both of them. Before I really realized it, I was baptized a Mormon. " The mother is beside herself, but at some point she comes to terms with the conversion: after all, the daughter still believes in God and the Bible. When the missionary returns to Utah, Carmen follows her. She lives with her friend's family and wants to study tourism. "We cuddled and had butterflies in our stomach, but at the same time we knew: This is a terrible sin, homosexuality is strictly forbidden in our religion, as is sexual contact before marriage."

At some point the friend begins to distance herself from her, goes out with men, Carmen feels hurt. Then the friend can no longer bear her feelings of guilt. She tells her bishop, as the Mormons call their pastors, about herself and Carmen. The betrayal marks the beginning of a humiliating procedure for the young Swiss woman.

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In Bern, Renate Bader starts reading newspapers and books again when the youngest daughter starts school; she enrolls at the University of Education for a course of study. Doubts about their beliefs creep in. She wants to discuss God with other Mormons, but she is met with incomprehension, “even among intelligent people, among lawyers”. She tells a fellow teacher that she doesn't believe in evolution. He replied that such an attitude could not be taken seriously. So I went to the bookstore and started researching. I noticed: he is right. "

Renate is close friends with a gay Finn. They were together on a mission in Ireland when they were young. In discussing with him, you realize how restrictive Mormon dogma is. «Homosexuals should be permanently celibate, that can't be! You stole a large part of his life from him. " Around four years ago, after half a century in church, everything collapsed like a house of cards. Renate Bader confesses to her husband that she no longer believes. He reacts angrily.

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Two decades earlier in Utah. On a Sunday the bishop called Carmen Aracil to himself. Like all Mormon bishops, he holds the office part-time for a few years and has not completed any pastoral training. He wants to know how and where the young women kissed, whether they have touched their intimate areas. Carmen feels smaller and smaller, the bishop railed that it was all a sacrilege against nature. Carmen has to make atonement: 18 months mission in California.

At 23 she comes back to Switzerland. She suppresses the fact that she is attracted to women. Carmen is extremely active in the church in Zollikofen, where she also meets Renate Bader. She devours Mormon literature to compensate for the lack of socialization in the church. She meets a Mormon and wants to marry him. But again she falls in love with a US missionary and breaks the engagement. Also now the local bishop learns of the romance, the interrogation is even worse than in the USA. "He asked me which finger I masturbate with, whether I watch porn that only featured women, and whether I know other women who have 'abnormal' tendencies." Carmen thinks she is in the wrong film, she feels guilty again and falls into a depressive mood. Then she finds a book in a bookstore that opens her eyes.

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Renate Bader's apostasy plunges her whole family into a serious crisis. Her four believing children cannot believe it. A daughter is preparing to serve a mission. Some bishops advise Renate's husband to divorce. He doesn't want to know anything about it. There is no turning back for Renate Bader when it comes to church matters, but her marriage is holding up. Til today.

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Carmen Aracil howls all night as she reads the book "Goodbye, I love you". In it, the US Mormon Carol Lynn Pearson writes about her husband who has come out. And how she cared for him after he fell ill with AIDS until his death. Carmen discovers the author's phone number in the envelope. "I told her my whole story, finally someone who understood me!"

Shortly afterwards, the bishop invites her for a second interview. She insists on taking a friend with her. The lay preacher no longer dares to ask intimate questions. But he tells Carmen that she is such a pretty girl, that she should marry, that any man would take her. The realization grows in her: She no longer wants that. Also because she wonders why women don't also have the right to become bishops. In 1994 she declared her resignation. It took a long time for the Church to remove its name from the list of members.

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With Renate Bader things are faster 20 years later. The Quit Mormon group is helping her; after three months it is out. But she suffers, like many who have left religious communities, as happened to Carmen Aracil. Almost the entire social network is lost in one fell swoop. Renate Bader is no longer the model mother of a perfect Mormon family, but an apostate. One daughter is so injured that she almost completely withdraws from her. “Up until then, I was part of a community in which everyone saw the world the same way and thought the same as me. And now I was lonely. "

Bader is angry with the church and has the feeling that he has been lied to by the grain for 50 years. She falls into depression. But she finds her way out of the hole, thanks to therapy, thanks to contacts with non-church members about the job - and thanks to the exchange with fellow sufferers. She organizes a meeting of Mormons from Switzerland who support each other. And she reports back to her old friend Carmen, who thinks: It doesn't exist!

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The Mormons have around 5000 active members in Switzerland, their center is the concise temple near Bern. In the universal Church there is currently a debate going on about the regular intimate conversations between lay clerics and young people, initiated by the former Bishop Sam Young. The Texan went on hunger strike to demand that the 1: 1 interviews end. He was excommunicated for his harsh criticism. But the church leaders in Salt Lake City have also responded to the concerns: Children and young people can request that a second adult be present during the talks.

The same guidelines now also apply in Switzerland. They should ensure that a “protected framework and a trusting atmosphere for discussion” are created, as the spokesman for the church, Yves Weidmann, says. The aim of the discussions was to encourage young people and give them new perspectives to shape their everyday lives. Weidmann emphasizes that questions such as the ones Aracil and Bader had to endure are neither intended nor compatible with the guidelines. "If in individual cases people have had negative experiences or have been injured, it makes us deeply sad."

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Renate Bader says there are also good bishops. Whether you catch one of these is a matter of luck. She calls it "Bishop Roulette" with a grin. She herself was less unlucky than Carmen Aracil, but she too was once squeezed into her masturbation practices. From today's perspective, she thinks it is “completely wrong”. Like some of the things that make life in a religious community.

Mormons rely on the Book of Mormon in addition to the Bible. This is based on gold plates that the Prophet Moroni allegedly wrote and that the church founder Joseph Smith claims to have discovered in the 1820s. According to the doctrine, the natives of America are descendants of emigrated Israelites. Jesus is said to have appeared to the god-fearing part of the tribes, the Nephites, after his ascension to heaven, where he brought them a short version of the Gospels and appointed 12 apostles. Later, in a great battle, the wicked Lamanites destroyed all the Nephites except the prophet Moroni. The Lamanites, i.e. the Indians, are said to have been punished with their dark skin for their outrage.

"How could we ever believe such a thing ?!" The two friends Renate and Carmen look at each other and shake their heads.