HBM111: Waiting for Earth

Motherhood always seemed non-negotiable for Bethany Denton. Her upbringing in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints certainly instilled this. Mormons believe in what’s called a “premortal existence,” a place up in heaven where the eternal souls eagerly wait their turn to be born on Earth so they can prove their faith to Heavenly Father, and then return to glory in the afterlife.  

For Mormons, life on Earth is just a short test, an opportunity to practice free agency and serve God’s will. That’s why leaders of the LDS Church like Elder Dallin H. Oaks are concerned about falling birth rates among members of the church. They believe that “one of the most serious abuses of children is to deny them birth.”

This belief in pre-life gives additional weight to God’s commandment to “be fruitful and multiply.” It’s about more than maintaining the populations; it’s about giving other children of God a chance to live. As an adult, Bethany lost her faith in the LDS Church. She stopped believing that her primary purpose in life was to be a mother, and for the first time, she started to seriously consider what her life would be without children.

Roberto Molina and Bethany Denton on their wedding day. Photo by Zephyr Wadkins. 2018.

HBM087: Trifle Not with Sacred Things

It hasn’t been easy for Ashley Fryer to let go of her faith. For thirty years, she dedicated her life to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. She grew up attending church multiple times a week, and dutifully studied her scriptures. Over the years, she found inconsistencies in church doctrine, and would pile these up on what she calls ‘the shelf’.  She’d pile it higher and higher, thinking, “well, I’ll deal with it later.”

For Ashley, her shelf broke on November 5, 2015. On that day, a new LDS church policy leaked. This policy said, among other things, that children of gay parents could not be baptized unless they were eighteen years old, living on their own, and had renounced same sex marriage. It was a controversial policy that members of the church came out for and against. This ran counter to Ashley’s personal beliefs, and she didn’t believe the leadership of the church spoke for God. So she put down her beloved scriptures, unsure what to do with relics of a religion she no longer believed in.

Hermod before Hela , by John Charles Dollman in 1909

Hermod before Hela, by John Charles Dollman in 1909

Since then, Ashley has been on a journey of spiritual discovery. She started exploring Wiccan practices, paganism, and her Norse heritage. She found that Hel, the Norse goddess of the underworld, resonated with her. Half beautiful maiden, half rotting corpse, Hel is the keeper of dead things. To Ashley, Hel represents a spirit of radical self acceptance, and new beginnings rising from the ashes. Ashley realized that she knew what to do with her LDS scriptures.

This episode was produced and edited by Ashley’s little sister, Bethany Denton. Additional editing help from Jeff Emtman and Nick White.

Music:  The Black Spot

HBM071: The Evangelists of Nudism

Growing up Mormon in Montana, Bethany Denton had a phrase drilled into her mind from an early age: “modest is hottest.”  To her, it became a mantra even while many of her friends, especially other girls, struggled with Mormonism’s strict modesty standards. But never Bethany–she was fat enough to know that no one wanted to see that anyway.

By the time Bethany moved to Washington State for college, she had rejected the church and was looking for new, broader experiences.  She got a job as a campus security officer, started drinking, and began wading into feminism.  She looked for new, non-Mormon role models to help her find adventure. That’s when she met Helen, a punk rock pirate who invited Bethany to join her for an all-expenses paid nude vacation, courtesy of an eccentric tech millionaire who evangelized the merits of nudism.

Bethany said yes, and went with Helen to California to bake in the sun for a week, and to learn about the body she’d been hiding for the past 20 years, learn to decouple nakedness from sexuality.

And when she returned, she felt utterly changed.  But she’d soon tearfully discover she was not entirely untangled from childhood guilt.

Names in this story have been changed.

"Artist's" Renderings of what Bethany Saw
Photos by Jeff Emtman

This episode was written and produced by Bethany Denton, and was edited by Jeff Emtman. Nick White is HBM’s editor at KCRW.

Music:  Nym | | | Half Ghost  | | |  Lucky Dragons 

Review us on iTunes and follow us on Twitter.