For my LDS autism parents, after receiving many of your emails.
**If you can, try to read through to the end so you aren't left with a sour taste in your mouth.**
This isn't meant to deter anyone from the LDS Church. I love it with all my heart. I broke this down into labels so you can pick what you would like to read.
Being a Convert
I haven't been LDS my whole life. I joined when I was 18. I personally feel being a convert has made me a little less critical against others that don't live my lifestyle. In fact, most of my closest friends aren't LDS at all. I'm not the typical Mormon-ie cultured type girl. I'm not overly bubbly, I'm not a huge fan of boardgames (unless we're talking Zarahemla here), I can't sew, I've tried. Everything comes out crooked and I am constantly saying things I shouldn't (like right now, probably). I'm not a "Playgroup" type mom. A bunch of moms sitting around talking about what they do with their kids, some telling you what YOU should do with your kids. I'm too busy telling my kid to not take her clothes off and stop eating the dirt. Eh, it's just not for me. My friends don't push their lifestyle on me and I don't push mine on theirs. I have found that living my life as a strong, devout LDS woman has been more of an example to them than anything I could have ever said to them.
Getting back on track here...if you are LDS - first and foremost YOU HAVE TO SEPARATE THE PEOPLE IN THE CHURCH FROM THE GOSPEL ITSELF. If you don't learn how to do this, it's only a matter of time before you allow yourself to be offended and you will leave the Church.
The Crap You Might Be Told By A Member
How many of you dread Sacrament? Guessing more than a few of you. Autism parents aren't thinking about the typical things the other parents are. As soon as I sit down in Sacrament my thoughts go a little something like this:
Did I bring enough toys?
Did I bring the right toys?
What if my son has a meltdown because I forgot a certain toy?
Did I bring too many toys? Are they going to fight over them?
I hope my daughter doesn't have a seizure.
I hope I brought enough snacks.
I hope I brought the right snacks.
Where's the exit? Are we close enough if I have to walk out?
What time is it, did we get here too early?
Who is sitting in front of us? Are they going to freak out if my daughter touches them?
Who is sitting behind us? Are they going to be ok with my kids?
She's humming again, is anyone staring at her?
It's no secret that LDS kids are well behaved, well groomed, taught to mind and so on. It's a bit intimidating for some of us with Special Needs kids. There was a ward that we were a part of in Utah. This was when we were just starting to figure out what was going on with our son and daughter. The Relief Society President used to always sit in front of us and at the end of every Sacrament meeting she would tell us about her daughter who has 6 kids and how well behaved they were. How her daughter never had to bring a single Cheerio to Church. Then she would say "Maybe I could have her give you a call." Most of the glares came from her. Some would say my son wasn't Autistic that he just needed discipline. Others would say it's because my kids are too close in age, that's why they're Autistic!
Every Sunday I would go home feeling like less than a perfect LDS mom. I was just learning about Autism. I was trying my hardest to keep my kids managed during Sacrament. Cheerios and Church flip books weren't working for them. Most would stare at us, some would roll their eyes. Every Sunday hurt.
Some will tell you, "No where is perfect, you'll find that behavior anywhere you go." or "I would think living in UT people would be kinder than you would find anywhere else." None of this is true, to be honest. I have a strong Testimony of the organization of Relief Society but sometimes I struggle with the women. My husband said he saw it all the time on his Mission. The Elders would be invited to RS potlucks for dinner and the Elders would sit by themselves and over hear some of the things the women would talk about. Almost always about another member. He said it was no wonder why so many would choose to leave the church. My dad used to make jokes about how you never hear a guy in Priesthood say "Oh my gosh! Did you see Brother Christensen today? I can't believe he wore that tie! What was he thinking?" General Authorities are on record for saying that there are wonderful men that would be great for Leadership callings but will never be called because of their wife. Joseph Smith had to rebuke the women for gossiping and being mean to one another just barely after the first RS was set up. If you go back and look at Paul, he was rebuking the women for being mean to one another. Some of the cruelest things I have ever had done and said to me were by girls/women in the Church. You will find great big hand fulls of AMAZING women in the Church but occasionally that sour apple can leave a bad taste in your mouth.
Self Righteousness Is The Name Of The Game
I had an LDS mom recently tell me "Raising Autistic kids isn't harder or less hard than raising normal kids. It's just different." Most Autism moms on my page addressed her as soon as they saw it. I guess she didn't realize that many of us actually have non-autistic kids so we know what it's like to raise both. It wasn't about trying to make a point of who's lot was harder. It was that she honestly believed that, that she really thought a tantrum was comparable to a seizure. That she had that typical naive mentality that she had been raised with that life was flowers and butterflies. She hated that I was a reminder to be grateful for her own lot because it could be worse.
Recently on my Autism FB page I posted a news clip about a mother that gave her son 3 ounces of coffee a day to help with his ADHD. I was asking my Autism parents what they thought, kind of in a sense like "hey isn't this crazy?" I can understand a mothers willingness to try anything, that is NOT to say that I would. Anyways shortly after posting it, I received an email from a lady I know (that isn't familiar with Autism) that went something like this:
"Ashlie, I saw your post and I just felt prompted to bare my testimony to you about the word of wisdom..." and the email went on and on and on.
Self Righteous? Maybe a little. (The same woman that feels so passionately about the Word Of Wisdom yet debated with me on a separate occasion when I said my family will never eat at Hooters. Strange, I know.) But I replied and told her that I loved the Gospel and that I had no intention of giving my kid coffee.
I understand what you're going through but it's not a reason to give up on the Church. I don't always make it to Church because of my daughter's seizures. Church is so hard for her between the crowds, the crying babies, her asthma attacks, her sensory issues. I say this to some people and they actually
think that I am giving them an excuse. There's a line of people ready to tell me what I am doing wrong. There always will be. I've come to accept that.
You're going to get those members that feel the need to
"bare their testimony to you" about something you're doing that they
don't agree with. You're going to have people that comment about your
kid. At first glance, Autism isn't as visible as something like Down Syndrome. Therefor it's easier for people to disregard. You have to accept this because you can't change it. Sitting in Sacrament is often a reminder to me that my family is different. Sometimes as I'm escorting my son or daughter with their flailing limbs out of the meeting, I catch myself look up to see if anyone is staring. Something I'm working on. Despite the rude comments that I have heard in the past (and that you email me about regarding your own situations) you have to separate the doctrine from the people. What keeps me active in this church is my belief in the Doctrine we are taught and the Spiritual experiences I have had. Now I bring the activities and snacks to Sacrament that work for MY kids and I care a little less about what others think. If eating a pickle is going to keep my daughter calm, well then you're going to have to deal with the smell of vinegar if you sit in front or behind us =)
This Church, it's my life. My Testimony is engraved on the walls of my heart. I've spent too many nights crying over something that was said, something someones child said to my daughter who's parents stood there and didn't correct them, didn't even blink. At the end of the night, I find comfort in my Savior. I find comfort in knowing that in the end, none of this will matter except for how I handled it. The Church falls away in the end. The only thing that will remain is our family unit. Did you know that? Well now you do =) Don't let anyone deter you from attending church, from reading your scriptures, having FHE, attending the Temple and fulfilling your calling. The Adversary comes in many shapes, sizes and forms. He'll do anything
to tear down your testimony. It's up to you whether or not you let him.