UU Mormon

Archive for the ‘LDS Life’ Category

While I love the UU services and values, every once in a while I get this hankering to go back to “our old church”.  I have a few friends there I really like, I know a lot of people (in the sense that I’m Facebook friends with them and I hear the gossip even though I don’t know them well personally) so there’s a small-town-within-the-big-metropolis feel to the ward, and I’m much more equipped now to do church on my own terms instead of letting them steamroll me with guilt and obligation.  It’s my heritage, my culture, my tribe.

And face it, Mormonism is fascinating.  The UUs are great with all their celebrating diversity, recognizing the inherent dignity and worth of every person, and determination to change the world into a more loving and compassionate place, but the Mormons have seer stones, angels, ancient mystical artifacts, uncreated intelligences becoming spirits becoming humans becoming gods, “If You Could Hie to Kolob”, all that good stuff  (I know, you don’t get to hear about it much, but it’s there, underneath the milk).

But should I ever get too enthusiastic about it, I remind myself that I have a daughter who is Beehive-almost-MiaMaid age.  And then I remind myself of the lessons I taught to girls that age back when I was one of the Young Women’s leaders.  Lessons like Attitudes about Our Divine Roles, YW Manual 1, Lesson 8.

What might our divine roles be, do you suppose? Could it be that we each have our own unique role that depends on our unique talents and gifts?  Or that we will all have many roles in our lifetimes, each of them different and all valuable in their own way?   Or, perhaps, that God will guide us to the roles he needs us to fulfill, that may be different than what we or others expect for us?

Nah.

We’re women.

The first section of the lesson has the heading “We Accept the Lord’s View of the Roles of Women“, and goes on to explain that if the divine roles the LORD has appointed for you (for those of you who haven’t been to church in the last, um, 100 years, those roles are — wait for it — wife and mother) don’t appeal to you, it’s because you are choosing to have a negative attitude.

 And that’s bad, because you made a promise before you were even born that you would dedicate yourself to being a wife and mother.
We committed ourselves to our Heavenly Father, that if He would send us to the earth and give us bodies and give to us the priceless opportunities that earth life afforded, we would keep our lives clean and would marry in the holy temple and would rear a family and teach them righteousness. This was a solemn oath, a solemn promise. (Spencer W. Kimball, “Be Ye Therefore Perfect,” address given at the Salt Lake Institute of Religion, 10 Jan. 1975, p. 2)

And also

President Kimball cautioned, “Do not … make the mistake of being drawn off into secondary tasks which will cause the neglect of your eternal assignments such as giving birth to and rearing the spirit children of our Father in Heaven” (Ensign, Nov. 1979, pp. 102–3).

Now, you might think that guilt-tripping teenage girls over “solemn oaths” they can’t remember making is kind of ridiculous and silly, but when I was a teenage girl, I was incredibly susceptible to guilt-trips of all kinds.  God and Jesus never seemed entirely plausible, but condemnation, damnation, and hell?  Oh yeah, I bought into that stuff without question.  Because the Mormon hell is “a bright recollection of all our guilt.” That’s not hard to believe in. I was already there!

So, girls, do you want to grow up to be homemakers?  No?  Then you’re sinning.

There’s plenty more in this lesson (women’s greatest happiness comes from bearing children, wanting to do something different is selfish, women have great power through influencing their husbands to accomplish important things, etc), but this is certainly enough to illustrate my point, which is this:

I want my daughter to know that she has choices.  That she has many good choices about what to do with her life, not just one good choice and a whole lot of selfish, wicked ones.

I hope she’ll want to have a family.  I think she will — she’s awesome with little kids and she’d be a great mom. But she also has amazing gifts in math and science and a passion for the environment.  There are so many things she could do.  And she should be free to explore her options without guilt.

This is my number one biggest issue with the LDS church, and it’s not actually a feminist issue although this specific example is.  What it comes down to is that I don’t believe anyone is meant to do a particular job or live a particular life simply because of their gender (or race, or ethnicity, or sexual orientation, or… you know the drill).  A man shouldn’t be pressured to hold the priesthood and leadership positions if he doesn’t want to, a woman should have the option to do those things if she wants to.  Not every 19 year old boy would benefit by going on a mission. Not all women are cut out to be mothers, some men make brilliant stay-at-home dads.

Nothing is right for everyone.  There is no One True Lifestyle.

And that’s why I can’t go back to the LDS church, not only because of my daughter, but also because of my son, who doesn’t want to do scouts and who would live the next 9 years in a cold sweat and getting ulcers if he thought a mission was in store for him.  Neither of them fits the LDS mold (does anyone, really?), and while they’ll undoubtedly grow up to have their own parent- and church-induced neuroses (what do UUs feel guilty about?  Not wanting to go to protest rallies? Using plastic bags?), I’m going to do my best to make sure that a whole wide beautiful world of possibilities is open to my kids.  After they go to college, of course.

Who betrayed who how?

A while back the kids and I went to see a performance of Godspell that a friend of ours was in. If you’ve seen it, you know it’s one of those weird hippie musicals, like Jesus Christ Superstar or Hair, only with clowns and no nudity. It’s based on the Gospel of Matthew and portrays Jesus’s ministry, starting with John the Baptist and ending with the crucifixion, and in between the cast acts out various parables.

My kids weren’t quite sure what was going on, though it was a fantastic performance and was entertaining enough that they didn’t particularly care that they didn’t understand it. I provided a bit of commentary now and then.

At one point near the end I leaned over and whispered, “This is the Last Supper. Judas is leaving to go get the soldiers to arrest Jesus.”

They both looked at me blankly. “Judas?”

“Yeah, you know… Judas. He betrayed Jesus.”

No sign of recognition.

Now, they went Primary until they were 11 and 8, respectively, and I know they heard about Judas betraying Jesus because I taught CTR8 for three years and it’s in the Easter lesson. They heard that story every year.

 

So what were they learning in Primary?

And surely it wasn’t only once a year. Jesus! The Garden of Gethsemane! The atonement! Isn’t that the point of it all? I remember name-dropping Jesus in a lot of contexts unrelated to the New Testament Gospels — Jesus wants us to pay our tithing, Jesus doesn’t want us to drink coffee, Jesus gave us (at least the male segment of “us”) the priesthood, Jesus wants us to follow his example — but there had to be Bible stories too, right? There’s the story about John the Baptist baptizing Jesus, and there was one about Jesus healing a blind man, and… um…

That’s all I could come up with. I knew there had to be more, though, so I went back and looked through the manuals online. Turns out, the Choose the Right A manual does include many references to the New Testament. I found the story of Jesus’s family escaping from Herod and going to Egypt, Satan tempting Jesus in the wilderness, Jesus calling his disciples to be “fishers of men”, the healing of Jairus’s daughter, calming the seas, “suffer little children to come unto me”, healing the ten lepers, the widow’s mite, and others.

 

Jesus wants us to be correlated

But something struck me that I never noticed before. The purpose of the lessons is not specifically to learn about Jesus, but to learn principles, which are illustrated and supported by the New Testament scriptures.

For example, the story of the prodigal son illustrates the principle of repentance. The widow’s mite is in a lesson about paying tithing. The healing of Jairus’s daughter is about priesthood blessings for the sick. Jesus calming the seas during the storm is also about the power of the priesthood, and how men with the priesthood can perform ordinances like baptism, confirmation, blessings, and weddings (which is exactly like having the power to control nature). “Bear testimony,” the lesson text instructs the teacher, “of your gratitude that we have the priesthood—the same power Jesus has—to help us in our lives.”

Ironically, the lesson called “I Can Tell Others about Jesus Christ” doesn’t talk about Jesus at all. It mentions his name, of course, but if you swapped out every occurrence of the word “Jesus” and replaced it with “the Church”, it wouldn’t change the meaning or substance of the lesson. In fact, the lesson itself uses the two terms interchangeably.

The CTR B manual uses the Book of Mormon as the primary source of its supporting scripture references, and both manuals also occasionally reference the Old Testament and other books of scripture. In Senior Primary the classes start focusing on the actual scriptures, and they spend one year each on the Book of Mormon, Doctrine & Covenants/Church History (no comment), New Testament, and Old Testament. So they do get two years of Biblical education before they go into Young Men/Young Women.  It’s just that neither of my kids got that far.

 

A possible solution

The problem is, Bible literacy is required for cultural literacy. Whether or not you believe in it as a book of scripture or the word of God, it’s going to be nearly impossible to understand the literature, art, and culture of Western civilization without a certain level of familiarity with the Bible.

But if we went back to the LDS church and sent the kids to early-morning seminary (which Horatio vowed he would never allow after the year he spent teaching it), it wouldn’t help. To get a decent grounding in the Bible, you’re going to also spend a lot of years on the Book of Mormon and Doctrine & Covenants, and then what you’re taught about the Bible will be colored by the Pearl of Great Price, so it’s not going to match up with the broader culture. Obviously they’re not going to get that type of education in public school either. We toyed with the idea of vacation Bible school (there was a Harry Potter-themed Episcopalian one near here that sounded amazing), but ultimately we decided we’re just going to have to do it ourselves. And we came up with a revolutionary idea for how to do it…

Family.

Home.

Evening.

That’s right. Now that we’re apostates we’re having FHE for the first time ever. And it’s so much fun! I’m not even joking. We’ve done a couple lessons, but we’re still working out the details and curriculum, so…

To be continued.

It’s official. I’m philomytha, and  I’m a Mormon.  I feel so validated.

All of my answers were accepted, and they didn’t ask me to revise anything. I didn’t know if they’d like that I said I wasn’t very religious, that I’m only a Mormon because my ancestors were (no profession of belief), that not all members agreed with the church’s stance on Prop 8, and that the church splintered in chaos and confusion after Joseph Smith’s death.  But it seems those were all okay.

It took a bit less than a month to be approved, in case anyone is wondering or waiting…

My profile on mormon.org is still “Pending Review.”

In an interview in Deseret News the church media director talks about the diversity among the church membership, and then says “Yet surprisingly, if you read the 3,000 mormon.org profiles, you will find those people are very unified in the understanding of what they believe. It is shocking. I expected responses to be all over the place, and they are not.”

Hm.  That could be because true-believing, missionary-minded folks who have a good grasp of correlated material are the ones creating profiles.  Or it could be because only the “correct” beliefs are being allowed through.  Or both.

I’m wondering how long the review process takes.  Anybody know?

I just created a profile at the new mormon.org website.

I’m guessing that anyone who stumbles across this blog knows about mormon.org, but in case you don’t, it’s a companion website to a new ad campaign that the LDS church is running.  The basic premise is “Hey, look, we’re not weird!” and features commercials spotlighting a variety of normal (if exceptionally cool) people whom you might not expect to be Mormon.  The most popular one so far seems to be hip-skateboarder-guy.  This may in part be because he is also a hip-photographer-guy whose photos you might not want your bishop to catch you looking at.

So the website is a place for all you nonmembers who have never met a real live Mormon to find a virtual Mormon neighbor. Any Mormon can fill out a profile telling about their lives, their personal religious experience, and answering FAQs about Mormons.

As a superstitious agnostic universalist Mormon pragmatist I’m pretty unorthodox, but I’m still a Mormon, so I figured why not?  I mean, the point of the website is to let people get to know the real Mormons, right?  To show a more accurate picture of a misunderstood group.  To represent the people, not just the doctrine.  And while I’m unorthodox, not very religious, and currently inactive, I’m not all that unusual as a Mormon.  There are plenty of Mormons like me, and if the general public is going to get a representative picture of Mormons, we should be included.

So I filled out a profile. It’s not critical of the church, and I’m pretty sure I didn’t assert any position that contradicts church doctrine.  I didn’t bear testimony, of course, I basically talked about being a cultural Mormon.  The question is, I suppose, how broad a spectrum of people the church wants to show.  Do they want to show that Mormons can be all kinds of people with all kinds of views, or is the goal to show that Mormons are all kinds of people who all believe the exactly the same?  I’m guessing the latter, though I think the former would be more reassuring to the general public.

Right now my profile is “Pending Review.”

Rebecca J. at By Common Consent has written a post called “Petitionary prayer: the monkey’s paw of my faith” that describes the difficulties with prayer I mentioned in my last post far more eloquently than I could do myself.  Highly recommended!

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I confess, we haven’t been to church in months.  As my husband pointed out, I’m now inactive in two churches.  Maybe I should go looking for another church to be inactive in.  Maybe I could set some kind of record.

The thing is, I’m just not very spiritual.  I always enjoy church when we go, I’m happy we went, but it doesn’t fill any particular need for me.  My life and psyche don’t suffer from a lack of spirituality.  Not that I’m fulfilling my need for spirituality in some other way, but that I really don’t have one.  I suspect a lot of people won’t believe that.

The way spirituality is expressed in the LDS church makes me deeply uncomfortable.  I don’t know why, because I did grow up with it, but I don’t like it and break out in a cold sweat if I have to participate in it.  I will go to great lengths to avoid public prayers, I’m uncomfortable even listening to them, and I hate hate hate testimony meeting.

I don’t even like personal prayer. When I stopped praying entirely it was like a huge burden was lifted.  I think this is because prayer has always been an expression of my anxiety disorder.  It was about my fears — I had to pray to prevent bad things from happening, but, as you’ll hear in any testimony meeting, if you don’t watch how you phrase things, prayer can make bad things happen. If you want to be a better person, God will make you suffer. As a “test” or to give you the “opportunity to grow”. So praying was a dangerous activity, but not praying was dangerous too.  What a horrible trap to be caught in. So being able to stop was a sign I was getting better.

Spirituality at the UU church is much nicer. It’s about love and kindness and being your best self.  Good stuff with no trickster gods or commandments to be perfect.  I enjoy it.  I’d like to go.

But it does feel optional (part of that lack of commandments about obedience and perfection, probably).  And when my daughter doesn’t wake up until nine on Sundays, I can NOT bring myself to wake her up.  Her need for sleep feels like it outweighs my nonexistent need for spirituality.

We went to the church picnic last Sunday, since it was in the afternoon and I didn’t have to wake anybody up. And the kids wanted to go because, well, there were snowcones.

The only problem was that I only know three people in the congregation and none of them were there.  I have not done well at making connections.  That’s really not my strong suit.  The funny thing is that I’ve become closer to several people in my LDS ward since I stopped going to church.  In my entire life I’ve never had friends in my ward and now I have a bunch.  How does that happen?

I’m going to get more serious about going to church, though not immediately, and not for my own sake.  But as my kids get into middle and high school I would like them to have a peer group where the focus is on treating others with kindness and respect. Also, they have to take OWL.