It’s late, and I should be in bed, but for certain reasons, I have to stay up. Naturally, my brain is going in a lot of directions at once, so why not write down what I’m thinking?
Has anyone else noticed how every instance of human evil is treated as if it’s part of a baseball score? No matter what happens, there’s always a “yes, but.” And that “yes, but” is almost always about how some other group has done worse things. So, two sociopaths murder 17 French citizens, and we can’t just say that’s a terrible thing and mourn for the dead. No, we have to explain how the French have mistreated Muslim immigrants (and yes, they have done so), which means the murder is just, what, evening the score? When the two New York policemen were killed just before Christmas, someone I know posted on Facebook, “Chickens coming home to roost,” as if these murders were somehow the fault of the policemen. In the same way, we’re told by other folks that people like Eric Garner were not compliant, so apparently that means they deserved to die. And now we’re told that it’s wrong that the recent attacks that killed some 2.000 Nigerians haven’t received as much attention as the murders in France. And we can’t say anything about ISIS because America’s done worse things. Maybe it’s not like a baseball score; this is like tennis or a video game, with an endless stream of “yes, but” attempts to outdo each other in terms of moral outrage. For God’s sake, can’t we just grieve for all the dead and resolve to try and end the cycle of violence? Why does everything have to be measured and one-upped by everything else?
I watched a video called “Meet the Mormons” (no, not that one) that aired on Britain’s Channel 4 last summer, and it stirred up some emotions in me that I hadn’t felt in a while. I must say I enjoyed how the filmmakers treated the LDS “minders” as sort of a creepy kind of comic relief. It struck me how strange it was that church leaders thought they could (and should) exercise that degree of control over what the missionaries and other members could say to the interviewers, and predictably their efforts erased a lot of the filmmakers’ initial good will and ended up making the church look ominously controlling. Then I saw the trailer and some interviews about “My Husband’s Not Gay” (spoiler: yes, he is). I can only assume that these guys and their beards–er, wives–didn’t get permission from church leaders because this show turned out to be little more than a live-action dramatization of the song “Turn It Off.” Somehow I don’t think the LDS church wants to be known as a group consisting of guys who spend their time leering at men while insisting that they aren’t gay (it’s SSA) and pretending that they really, truly are attracted to their wives.
I read somewhere that when you realize that Mormonism may not be what it claims to be entirely and Joseph Smith may not have been the greatest person, it’s not necessary to abandon it as “false” and walk away. One of my commenters here refers to it on his blog as “playing the ball where it lies.” In other words, you recognize the reality and work with it as well as you can. I would say it’s more playing the hand you’re dealt, but who’s going to quibble over metaphors? But I think that depends on whether you believe that the LDS church is, as my commenter puts it, “inspired” and reflects the divine will in some way. Or you might just believe, as a friend of mine does, that the LDS church has a net positive effect on the world. I am happy to acknowledge that the church does good in the world, and I am convinced that a lot of people are better for their association with the church. Heck, it’s pretty obvious to me that there are people out there who need the church and whose lives would be much worse without it. But for me, the shock of acknowledging that I didn’t believe in the church’s truth claims was overshadowed a few months later when I realized to my utter horror that, despite what I’d told myself all my life, I was miserable in the LDS church. I had a testimony, as they say, but I wasn’t happy. Watching that British documentary and reading about the gay-not-gay guys in Salt Lake just reminded me of the church’s capacity to hurt people’s lives in profound ways. I really struggle sometimes with what I write about the LDS church. I really would like to get to a point at which I never think about it anymore. Of course, given my family situation, that is impossible. But every so often I am reminded that, at heart, this is an organization focused on increased membership and income. I know that sounds harsh, but I believe it to be true. I wouldn’t mind the church if there were universal and obvious blessings from membership, but from what I see, there aren’t any. So many Mormons are like my friend, who described himself as “tired” in the church, with nothing left of himself to give. Part of me sees that and wants to help people get out of that miserable existence. But I don’t. If people are happy in the church (and there are some), they should be in the church. But something has to give: either the church has to start doing something good for its members, or the members have to do good for themselves.
It’s late, and I am not sure I’m even making sense anymore. I really have mixed feelings about my relationship with the church. I want to believe it is the church of high ideals and personal development that I once thought it was, but too often I have to stop myself from calling it a stupid fucking cult.