Oh, it’s good to be back home after a long vacation filled with lots and lots of driving. While traveling, I was contacted by an old acquaintance, a family member of a good friend from my LDS youth. As you do, we reconnected on Facebook, mutually followed each other, cooed over one another’s children, laughed at funny memes, that sort of thing. I genuinely like this person.
My previous post on my Mormon upbringing and how I look back on that now, however, struck a chord with her, and not in a good way. Specifically, umbrage was taken with me referring to the LDS church as a cult and claiming that many members are “blissfully ignorant.” Offense was taken at that term. And…I get it.
The assumption from that is that I am calling any active Mormon an idiot simply for being Mormon.
I do not, in fact, believe that active Mormons are idiots. Idiot is a malicious term in my view, and I don’t have automatic hatred, disgust, or animosity towards Mormons. After all, the majority of my family is still actively a part of the church. The people tend to be those who are just looking for a way to raise a healthy, loving family and have eternal happiness. That’s what they’re promised in return for obedience, after all.
My beef isn’t with Mormons. It’s with the doctrine. That’s an important distinction, in my mind. The doctrine teaches that people of color will be “perfected” in the next life — they won’t be their skin color, in other words. That is actual Mormon Doctrine — even printed in the LDS produced-book titled Mormon Doctrine! — that a person who is, say, Nigerian in heritage — or Japanese, or Portuguese, or… — isn’t perfect as the person they were born. That their skin color is wrong and will be “repaired” in the next life. Someone born with Down’s Syndrome, someone born with a physical abnormality, they, too, will be “perfected” in the next life. Because they’re not correct, not perfect now.
That’s offensive and hateful. If you can’t see how that is offensive and hateful, that means you might not be interested in learning why. That’s the “blissfully ignorant” bit to which I was referring. It doesn’t concern you, it doesn’t affect you, ergo, why go turning over rocks or poking at hornet nests? What a position of privilege not to have to care! Please understand you are privileged not to have to think about that or have it affect your daily life.
Someone who is gay, someone who was made in “God’s own image” has been told that not only did God make them that way — LGBT — but that they are never to know the intimate joy of loving who they love in this life. And more importantly, in the next life, God will fix that. Girls will like boys, boys will like girls, intersex bodies will be “repaired,” etc. etc. because God loves them and you just need to dig deep and accept celibacy in this life and that not liking the “appropriate” gender is wrong and sinful and something to be fixed. (I know the LDS church doesn’t have a lock on that particular aspect, but they are one of the few religions who acknowledge — now — that you’re quite possibly “born this way” and God will fix that up for ya when you move on to the next realm.)
Again, this is actual doctrine. This is also hateful and wrong and incredibly damaging. There’s a reason why Utah has a suicide rate far higher than the national average, especially with relation to LGBT members of the LDS church. Fact: Suicide is the second leading cause of death in the state for people under the age of 25. It’s fourth for adults. Not cancer, not heart disease, not car wrecks. People killing themselves. And it’s been increasing over the last decade, to the point where the state appointed a Suicide Prevention Coordinator. An anti-suicide Czar, in other words.
Look. If you are Mormon, and you don’t want to examine these tricky issues, if you don’t want to poke sticks at the bear and just live your life, that is absolutely 100% your right. I won’t argue that. But I will reserve my right to call you blissfully ignorant, because there is no other way to define someone who willingly puts their head in the sand because it “doesn’t affect them.” I was raised the same way, okay? I was taught not to get into doctrinal arguments with people outside the church because they won’t get it. (Can’t you see that it’s a preemptive strike to keep you from being schooled by people who actually understand these topics far better than you?) We were raised not to let those “lies” into our heart, not to mar the precious spirit within us.
You’re reacting to me as if I was telling you lies to hurt you. I’m telling you truths that hurt others.
I’m not saying that an active member disrespects people of color, people with mental or physical differentiations, or LGBT folks. I’m just saying that the Mormon church absolutely does not respect them, as clearly indicated by their teachings that those very people will be “fixed” one day.
If you don’t want to examine that too closely, fair enough. But to be “disappointed” in me for being full of contempt and bitter over a Mormon’s “life choices” is…well, it’s ironic. I’m not tearing down a person for their life choices, I’m tearing down a veil of lies and subterfuge that shows how an organization systematically tears people down for their lives being what they are (black, homosexual, feminist, intellectual, etc.).
The Mormon church has always asserted two things: one, you cannot pick what you believe. You believe the Church is true (meaning everything it teaches and professes) or you do not believe. Two, the Book of Mormon is the literal word of God as translated by the prophet Joseph Smith, or it is all a lie. This is a literal quote from President Hinckley in 2005 at the church’s April General Conference with regard to Joseph Smith’s assertions as to how the BoM and the Mormon faith came to be, repeated for the PBS documentary in 2007: “It either occurred or it did not occur. If it did not, then this work is a fraud.”
There is no in between. There is no picking or choosing. You’re either in whole hog or you’re not. Now, clearly as a non-believer I say that’s bunk. You can take away great things the church does — steady and regular service to your fellow man, ideas that families should be your first source of joy, Girls’ Camp, which is my most favorite thing from my youth — and leave all of the witchcraft and sorcery aside, but you can’t do that and be an active True Blue Mormon, because they set the rules in place. I didn’t make the rules. I’m just pointing them out.
It’s not religious discrimination to point out the very real and very dangerous aspects of a church. I wonder how many Mormons actually feel bad about saying Scientology is wackadoo? Because I’ve never met them.
For every Mormon who over the years has smiled sadly at me as they explained how “disappointed” they are in me for shining a light on these things, I’ve had three times as many former Mormons thank me. I’ve had more people talk to me about how they’d never considered the doctrine to be harmful, they’d never known about Joseph Smith’s actual fraud cases, etc., how many times the church has revised things that have been claimed as being “perfect” from the start (then why all the changes? Why the committees to tweak and alter to make a story more palatable?), I’ve had more former Mormons tell me horror stories of growing up maligned, abused, rejected and ashamed because they didn’t fit the perfect mold.
Of course there are Mormons who don’t act like the ham-fisted keepers of propriety I talk about. Just as an Irish Catholic of Boston is going to have a different religious experience than a Roman (actual Rome) Catholic, a California Mormon is going to have a different experience than a Utah County Mormon. A convert is going to have a different experience than someone from an old pioneer Mormon family (which mine is).
That’s not the point. The point is that the doctrine says you must be a very specific thing. you must strive to be a certain thing. There is no in between. There are no cafeteria Mormons — you cannot pick and choose what to believe from the doctrine. (People do, of course they do.)
From 2011 General Conference, Elder Nelson: “Teach of faith to keep all the commandments of God, knowing that they are given to bless His children and bring them joy. Warn them that they will encounter people who pick which commandments they will keep and ignore others that they choose to break. I call this the cafeteria approach to obedience. This practice of picking and choosing will not work. It will lead to misery. To prepare to meet God, one keeps all of His commandments. It takes faith to obey them, and keeping His commandments will strengthen that faith.”
But the church doesn’t want that, as shown by one of the their leaders above. And it is the church that I speak about.
You are fully within your right not to read about it. And I will be fully within my right to point out that you are choosing not to educate yourself. No harm, no foul. I’ll just have to live with your disappointment. And hey, think of it this way: I’m helping fulfill 2 Nephi 2:11, allowing you to progress spiritually. There must be “an opposition in all things. If not so… righteousness could not be brought to pass.”
You’re welcome. 😉
(For the record, this individual couldn’t have been more courteous and thoughtful. I’ve gotten enough of these sort of comments over the years that I wanted to address it, that’s all.)