I’ve written before that faith expressed in arrogance is bigotry. And while that post dealt with a conference talk from Boyd K. Packer on pornography, I’m writing with a much broader brush.
If you’re convinced that the new LDS Handbook One updates about apostates and children being denied blessings that are doctrinally critical to their salvation are inspired from god and shouldn’t be criticized, do us both a favor and stop reading here. You’re going to get defensive at the very least or angry at me, and that’s not what I want.
I’ve let the issue incubate for a couple of weeks now. I’ve read apologists and activists, listened to historians, watched a video of Elder Christofferson, whose brother is gay, talk about how this is all to protect the children. I’ve read newspaper accounts of suicides, heartbreaking disclosures of gay and lesbian parents and their children, accounts of mass resignations, and an endless stream of memes on my Facebook feed. Just now my spouse read to me a story about yet another suicide.
And I know, you don’t give a shit about what I think, it doesn’t really matter. It only does to me to write it – I understand myself better when I do so, or when I talk about it. The problem I come across, especially when talking it out with my companion, is that we get so angry, not with each other, with the LDS church and with Mormons, and then we lose our focus.
This affects us and our family closely.
What set me off, though, to write this epistle, was a show on RadioWest with Doug Fabrizio. You should know that Doug is my brother-in-law. The show was on Homosexuality and the LDS Doctrine of the Family, and his guest was historian and Mormon scholar, Russell Stevenson. The church wouldn’t respond to RadioWest’s request, so Russell was the next best person to speak to these issues. I understand he does not speak for the church, but after my review of apologists and defending Mormons alike, I do believe he speaks for its members.
While there’s much to discuss about Russell’s apologia, the rub came when he used the term “Mormon cosmology.” Cosmology is a term better ascribed to Dr. Hawking than to Russell et al. It’s used to describe the origin and development of the universe. To put “Mormon” in front of it is to stake a claim in the cosmos, and of course, when an institution considers itself the one and only true and living church in said cosmos, its faith expressed in such bold arrogance could result in nothing other than bigotry. Hell, conditional love is bigotry.
The problem, the issue, the tragedy happens when one who is likewise convicted to that same Mormon cosmology, is told under no circumstances that if they are to live out the truth, the authenticity of who they really are, that they are considered apostates. Or that their children are denied fundamental blessings in order to progress in that eternal scheme will be denied such until they reach a legal age where they then disavow their parents’ “lifestyle,” that this is considered protection. (It’s not. It’s subjugation.)
I get it. I agree, even, that this is best for the kids, but for entirely different reasons. I believe it will help insulate them from the cult, and give them a chance to grow up outside of the dogma and brainwashing, draw closer to their parents and be better people because of it.
I grew up in a part member family. The Word of Wisdom was not practiced in my home, my parents were like the rest of the world, drinking coffee, enjoying cocktails, and smoking cigarettes. I’d sit on the front pew Sundays as a young deacon or teacher, or behind the Sacrament table as a young priest, smelling of cigarettes. I was taught that the gospel’s plan trumped my parents’ living, much like my own son was told by his bishop that he was better of in church than spending every other sabbath with me.
As a teenager I attended church mostly on my own and was adopted by well intended families who took me into their own circles, one of which had a son who was exactly my age. We can guess what stupid conclusions run with coincidences like these in the eternal scheme of things, one of which where I regretted my parents’ choices to the point of accepting that since I’m not sealed to them, I don’t belong to them.
I knew better, though, because they loved me, despite growing up with primary songs and church hymns and two and a half minute talks, and Sacraments meetings and General Authorities who testified that my family didn’t count. The irony is, that now as an apostate, I don’t count in my own family.
This is what Mormon Cosmology does in the arrogance of declaring itself the one and only true church. When discussing the aftermath of 9/11 and the extremist mindset of the terrorists, I asked my students in an argumentation and critical thinking class how they might respond if their prophet called them to serve in a violent capacity. Most of the hands in the room went up signaling their compliance. I was amazed. “And is this not extremism?” I asked. “No,” said a young man, fresh off his mission, “because we’re right.”
In my efforts to reconcile my feelings about this, and I’m unconvinced that’s even possible, I’m trying to love the believer while I hate the belief.
This is so simultaneously angering and sad. So many times earlier in my life have I sat at the feet of the Christus, either at the Salt Lake Temple visitors center or the one in St. George and found solace in the idea of the prints of the nails in his outstretched arms, thinking that there’s hope. With all that’s come to pass, and not just in terms of the LDS policies, but also in the scope of this country’s Christian cosmology, it has, for me, become nothing more than an idol.