by Amy Hampton
Ask not what your Church can do for you, but what you can do for your Church!
"My name is Amy Hampton and I would like to bare my testimony…I know this church is true. I am very thankful for my family and the church…."
From the time I was 4, these words made up the first of many sentences involved in baring my testimony, an event I remember vividly from my childhood. I was baptized into the Mormon Church, and forced at times to attend until I was about twelve years old.
Within the Mormon Church you attend Sacrament, similar to the Catholic Mass time. Sacrament takes place each Sunday and lasts for a good hour. Each month one Sacrament is dedicated to the baring of testimonies. Any brother or sister (member) of the church may do so willingly during this time. From about the time I could speak in complete sentences, baring my testimony was one of my highlighted events. I remember running up to the podium to bare the hell out of my little testimony; my father still recalls how proud he was. During the rest of the month my Sacrament activities involved a lot of zip-lock baggies full of cheerios and juice boxes. Rather than using my chair, as it should be, it became a desk for my legos and other allocated toys.
Testimony Sunday became less and less exciting as I grew older, as did the rest of each and every Mormon Church related activity. After Sacrament the children are filed into their perspective Sunday classes. The levels of youth-activities (for girls) within the church are as follows; Sunday school, Beehive, Maim aid and Laurels. By the time you are a Beehive (age 12) you are expected to join in conversation and study, of the Book of Mormon and the Bible. I still feel the anxiety of my Beehive experience; I can recall the teacher asking me, "Amy please read from Moroni 315". The entire audience of fellow sisters would stare at me, awaiting my performance. I had absolutely no idea how to locate this particular section within the Book of Mormon. Eventually after a long pause I would explain to the teacher that I did not want to participate in the reading-aloud portion of class. This and the fact that my father would drive us to church in a truck with a bumper sticker that read, "SHIT HAPPENS", did not help with my families' popularity within the "Ward".
Ah, "The Ward." This is a term used to refer each church. Every ward is lead by a Bishop. It has been my experience that only men are allowed to hold the title and position of Bishop. To help with the funding, all worthy members pay a tithing. This tithing is ten percent of your income. It doesn't matter how old you are, you are expected to contribute this percentage. Imagine being six years old and having to give ten percent of your weekly allowance to the church! My level of "worthiness" dropped considerably after I discovered tithing.
Worthiness is a subjective term that is used to determine whether a member of the church may or may not participate in certain activities. I recently went to church with my extended family in Centerville, Utah. I agreed to go because my Grandfather was in town and my baby second cousin was going to be blessed. As the whole blessing ceremony started I noticed that my Grandfather was in the circle holding the baby, rather than the father of the baby, my cousin.
You see, according to the Bishop, my Grandfather is an abiding "worthy" member and my cousin was not; thus, he was not allowed to participate in the blessing of his child. (Note here that the blessing circle consisted of only men. The women who actually physically give birth are not allowed in.)
The days of baring my testimony, paying tithing and constantly trying to maintain my worthiness are over. I do not consider myself a "Jack Mo"; I do not consider myself in any way shape or form a member of the Mormon Church. My experience with the religion is that of what I would call a "Recovered Mormon". I am one of the more fortunate ones who have made it out alive. My Grandparents and Father occasionally try to pull me back on the wagon. I hold strong to my liberty and lack of faith!