Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Squelching of Passion

I didn't believe much that I learned at church. Book of Mormon stories that my teacher told to me...like the ones graphically and hilariously described by Cognitive Dissenter here were clearly not possibly factual and anyone who took anything in that book, or any of the other Sacred Works, literally, seemed silly and juvenile.  I mean, really. Really? I still don’t believe anyone really, truly believes those things.

So, scriptural stories of miraculous adventures, visions of angels, and the stone-facilitated translation of golden plates were the sorts of things I didn’t believe. 

These are the things I wanted to believe:
  • That my family would be together forever if we happened to exist, in some form, following this life.
  • That although misguided and willfully delusional, my fellow church members were good and honest, loving people.
  • That there was some wisdom to be found in the transparently false scripture stories, simple metaphors, and trite “real-life stories” of blessings bestowed upon the faithful that made up the lessons I heard in church each week.
  • That even if it was all a hoax or the result of a few caught-up individuals believing the rantings of a crazy person proclaiming himself to be a prophet (and then passing these rantings as fact to their children for many generations), adherence to the plain and simple lifestyle (as dictated from the podium and socially enforced on the members by the members) would result in stability and security and loving family and ergo, happiness. 
  • That I could find intellectual stimulation, passion, romance, excitement, and adventure within the confines of that lifestyle. 
These are the things that I knew:
    • That I had a loving family in this life.
    • That my family members were good, honest, loving and tolerant people.
    • That I wanted stability, security, loving family AND intellectual satisfaction, passion, romance, excitement, adventure and happiness. Just, you know, “It All.”
    These are the problems with the Church’s prescription for happiness and a life well-lived (please add at will in a comment):
    • The preoccupation with the eternal family precludes the fullest enjoyment of family in this life, which is the only one we know we get for sure.
    • The preoccupation with the eternal family makes members unable to accept or tolerate family members who don't share belief in LDS doctrine. This can strain or destroy otherwise healthy and happy relationships.
    • The LDS lifestyle, with all of the callings and duties, leaves little time for the enjoyment of family. Hence the need for ONE (and only ONE) designated night reserved for family.  Although honestly, is Family Home Evening - complete with a boring lesson, scripture study, maybe a game, and dessert – really the best way to build meaningful relationships and enjoy our families?
    • The “wisdom” found in LDS teachings would have one believe that strict, unquestioning observance of every rule is the path to peace and happiness.
    • Preoccupation with the rules distracts people from developing the characteristics of genuine goodness – like honesty, love, tolerance, charity, integrity, and loyalty – and can delude members who manage to follow each and every rule into believing they are exemplary people.  These rules aren’t the ones given by Jesus, which actually do describe how to be a genuinely good person. (I’m no Christian but Jesus is at least reported to have said some pretty great things.)
    • Preoccupation with who is and who isn’t breaking the rules prevents members from seeing the more substantial strengths in each other and in their family members. This scrutiny results in the fear - of scorn and retribution - that tends to keep people in line which is good for the church of course.  But, it is completely lacking in compassion and doesn't help people to build meaningful friendships.
    • Shared  trivial rule-following does not result in the same level of camaraderie which can develop following compassionately shared experiences and struggles.
    • Tithing away 10% of the family income does not promote security or stability.
    • Parents barely have time to be parents, let alone companions, lovers, or partner’s in crime (or deviant sexual sins like ***gasp*** oral sex). Parents who lack sufficient time to be passionate, loving couples do not promote stable home life nor do they model loving, equal marriages to their children.
    • The prescribed lifestyle devalues intellect (particularly in women).
    • Blind faith and obedience are held as virtues, while doubt and personal study are a sure sign of a sinning individual seeking to justify their sins.
    • Women and Young Women are encouraged constantly to develop their talents, but it is implicitly conveyed that the only values women have that are worth developing are those which would help them to be good wives, mothers and homemakers, or to magnify church callings.  (Do you happen to rock at science but not so much at cooking, sewing, or playing hymns on piano? Too bad - get back in your proper sphere.  "Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children." And you all must aspire to motherhood.)  
    • The LDS lifestyle is tedious, monotonous, and just plain boring. It leaves little to no remaining time to pursue interests and broaden horizons.   The church would have one believe that this monotony is good for people.  In reality, it just drains ones inner resources and thereby squelches the individuality, energy, and natural human curiosity that enable people to live spontaneous, passionate, adventurous, curious, brave and joyful lives.
      And these, dear true believing Mormons, are the reasons I never found peace within the church, the reasons I left, the reasons I will never return, and the reasons that I just can’t “leave the church alone.”  I want others to see the church for the dehumanizing force that it is so that they may find courage to reclaim freedom and pursue lives well lived.

      Please remember to vote for the 2010 Brodie Awards! There are a lot of really great blogs and posts nominated.  Competition is tight! One of my posts was nominated (thank you, thank you, thank you to whoever you are!) for Best Philosophical/Religious Discussion.  I was shocked and humbled that my post was included among the others in the category.  I am now highly motivated to keep writing, write more often, and write more better (wink) in the coming year!  

      Happy New Year and much love!


      1. I can only say, Amen! You have articulated my own thoughts beautifully.

      2. This post is incredibly insightful. You articulate beautifully the reasons why LDS Inc. is so emotionally and mentally damaging, particularly to women.

        I will never forget my epiphany when I realized I had allowed the "hope for a better life to come" to rob me of the ability to enjoy the here, the now, the moment I was in. I had so much anger when I realized I'd not only fallen for the lie, but had incorporated in my thought processes to such an extent I had to teach myself to live in the moment of the present starting from square one.

      3. I'm still working very hard on learning to live in the moment...be present/mindful and all that.

        I'm very goal-oriented, and probably would be even if I hadn't been raised in the church, so I feel really lost without a big goal or three. I don't think that is necessarily a bad thing. But, I do think the belief that there will be a next life - and that it will be eternal and blissful and the sum of all knowledge will be given - makes people less motivated to learn, experience, and grow now. Since I gave up on trying to believe in anything outside of the natural, observable world, I am much more often cognizant of the fact that at some point I will face death and I would like to be able to look back at that point and say that I learned as much as I could, did as much good as I could, and that I enjoyed life and loved ones to the fullest. But, that puts a lot of pressure on me to be energetic and happy and excited all of the time. That's where I struggle, I guess.

        I imagine that the promise of a next life somehow makes LDS people more comfortable with the amount of time they must sacrifice for their church now. Sad.

      4. This list is very insightful.

        The promise of the next life helps comfort many... Even I used it, I can survive this, because it will all be worth it... Turns out, I didn't HAVE to survive anything, and it wasn't worth it.

      5. Oh Amy, you SO deserve to be included among the other great writers in the Brodies. Your writing is amazing, clear, thoughtful, thought-provoking and very much worth reading.