UU Mormon

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.

NinjaBoy told me this story about his RE class today:

Once upon a time, the earth had ten suns. They burned the crops so Houyi shot down nine of the suns with his bow.  As a reward he was given a pill that would grant eternal life, but he was supposed to fast for twelve months before taking the pill.  Houyi hid the pill in the rafters, where his wife Chang’e found it and swallowed it.  When Houyi came home, Chang’e started to float and flew up to the moon.  When she got to the moon she spit out the pill and it turned into a jade rabbit.  She built a palace on the moon, and Houyi built a palace on the sun.  Once a year Houyi visits his wife on the full moon.

I don’t know if this is the 100% correct story, but I was impressed that he came up with such a cohesive tale from memory hours later.  It’s like he was listening or something.

There were cookies.  NinjaBoy didn’t try them.  Because the teacher said they were kind of like gingerbread.

Butterfly came to the worship service with me, which was put on by the high schoolers. It was about their take on love, and I think Butterfly particularly enjoyed a skit about how love manifests itself in a typical high school day (ranging from PDAs to donations to Haiti relief), along with music and talks and ending up with “All You Need is Love”.  My favorite bit was where one young man said something to the effect that love is a lot like religion — nobody really knows what they’re doing, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t keep talking about it.

What I wouldn’t give to hear every religion in the world concede that point.  None of us has all the answers, none of us knows anything with complete certainty, we just need to keep talking and thinking.  What a refreshing idea.

I’ve been a fan of Orson Scott Card for many years.  I’ve enjoyed his books, read his columns and forums, and gotten great recommendations from him (it’s thanks to him I discovered my beloved Firefly).  I’ve tended to steer clear of his political posts though, because they’re so strident, even to the point of arrogance.  It’s always amazed me how indisputably right he believes he is.

One of the things that Card knows he is unquestionably right about is that our society’s viability depends on its basis in the 1950s style nuclear family.

American government cannot fight against marriage and hope to endure. If the Constitution is defined in such a way as to destroy the privileged position of marriage, it is that insane Constitution, not marriage, that will die.

Part of protecting marriage is making sure that LGBT people understand that they don’t have a valid place in society and must suppress or hide their sexuality.

Laws against homosexual behavior should remain on the books, not to be indiscriminately enforced against anyone who happens to be caught violating them, but to be used when necessary to send a clear message that those whoflagrantly [sic] violate society’s regulation of sexual behavior cannot be permitted to remain as acceptable, equal citizens within that society.

The goal of the polity is not to put homosexuals in jail. The goal is to discourage people from engaging in homosexual practices in the first place, and, when they nevertheless proceed in their homosexual behavior, to encourage them to do so discreetly, so as not to shake the confidence of the community in the polity’s ability to provide rules for safe, stable, dependable marriage and family relationships.

So should gays become accepted in our culture or gain rights to marriage, it would fracture stable families and lead to the collapse of our society.  We would be left to flounder in the same social chaos as, say, Canada.  Or Belgium.

Honestly, I never gave gay marriage much thought before Proposition 8, and my support for gay rights was actually a byproduct of the main issue that I had with that whole fiasco.  See, what upset me, primarily, was that the church leaders invoked their authority as God’s spokesmen to influence a civil election.

Initially I tried to defend the church.  “The prophet didn’t tell people to vote for prop 8,” I said, “He just encouraged them to vote for it and donate their time and money…”  As my husband then pointed out, what’s the difference? He’s the Prophet.  You obey the Prophet.  Every child in Primary knows that much.  It made me uncomfortable to think that there might have been people out there who voted for something they wouldn’t have otherwise, who gave money to a cause they wouldn’t have supported, who went door to door and made phone calls because their church leaders told them to, not because they were inspired to by their political convictions. Especially since I heard church members express ambivalence with phrases like “I don’t see what the harm would be in allowing them to marry, but church leaders say…” and “I know I’m supposed to be against gay marriage…”

A recent column by Card in the Mormon Times talks about a group of young people who were active in the campaign for Proposition 8. He says they were raised to reject bigotry, and many had close friends who were gay. He compares the pain they underwent in supporting prop 8 with that of Abraham being asked to sacrifice Isaac.

To their friends, these young Latter-day Saints seemed like any other bigots, and friendships ended or were severely damaged. Sometimes harder to bear was the self-questioning, for during their many phone calls to strangers, they ran across vehement supporters of Proposition 8 who were haters and bigots.

What am I doing on the same side of the issue as these pitiable people, these young single Saints asked themselves.

Yet they had faith in the gospel, in the prophets, in the “Proclamation on the Family.” And they acted on that faith, at great personal cost.

I am not wrong to compare them, or some of them at least, with Abraham, who was asked to violate everything he had fought for by sacrificing his son, or with the early church members who were shocked to find that they were expected to practice plural marriage.

These young people sacrificed friendships, some of their values, maybe even their consciences.  For the sake of obedience.

Card finds this praiseworthy.  If it’s true, I find it tragic.  And scary.  Do we really place so much value on obedience that it’s a virtue to do something that we believe is wrong because a certain group of men says it’s God’s will?

When my own state had a mean-spirited marriage amendment on the ballot I was relieved that it didn’t get any attention from the church (probably because they figured it would pass easily, which it did). No statements were read from the pulpit, so I was free to vote my conscience.  Yes, I actually believed that the “right” thing to do would be to vote however the church wanted me to, even if I disagreed with their position.  I don’t think I would have changed my vote; I think I would have still voted my conscience, but I certainly would have felt guilty about it.  And if I had voted the way I had been told to, voted for something I felt was wrong, I certainly would have felt guilty about that too.

I’ve been told by some (probably — hopefully — not representative) church members that if your conscience tells you something that is in opposition to what the Prophet says, then you’re in error and have been deceived by Satan.  So don’t trust what your heart tells you about right and wrong, listen to the Prophet.  And if it turns out that the Prophet tells you to do something that is wrong, he will bear the responsibility for it, not you, so you’re covered.

Think through that line of reasoning for a bit.  And imagine if 5 million people in the United States actually believed it and applied it beyond personal belief issues to political and social action.

Prop 8 has been nearly as controversial and polarizing within the church as without.  The church’s position has caused contention within wards, it has caused shame in church members, it has inspired acts of defiance by local leaders. All of which I find reassuring.  It means people are thinking.  Some may have sacrificed their consciences, but many others — on both sides of the issue — haven’t.

And that’s far more virtuous than obedience for its own sake.