Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Rock or Sand? Calling out Shaky Foundations

Here we are again. Another Mormon celebrity excommunicated from the Church and it's all over the news. Even CNN.

Many are saying this is a travesty, an attack on sincere questioning and honest, intellectual discussion. Their testimonies are now shaken.

To that I say check your foundation.

Alright, alright, I can feel your eyes roll as you read that. But remember who's writing this. I'm a critical-thinking, liberal, feminist latter-day saint. I'm your homegirl. So gimme a sec, OK?

I too wanted someone to emerge and start a dialogue. Someone who would submit new ideas to the presidencies of the Church, or remind them of how we've turned our backs on old ones. I'm all about addressing the discrepancies in how we treat men and women, too, especially as it relates to personal worth.

It's just that the two big figure heads of these movements, the ones whose excommunications were highly publicized, they're not the chosen ones.

I remember talking to a friend in the hallway at church. He said I just had to listen to a new podcast. He told me the name and I assumed it was just like Mormon Conversations. I put aside time to listen that same evening, hoping for a spiritual boost. It was not. As I listened, it felt as though a hand of caution had been tenderly placed on my shoulder. Instead of warmth, I felt coolness in my chest. This can't be, I thought. I'd been told that the creator of this podcast was helping people to stay active in the Church. This guy was one of us, critical-thinking and solid. Right? I tried to persevere and listen to more episodes over the following months. After a while I just couldn't do it anymore. It simply felt like I was dipping my toes in quicksand. Imagine my horror then as I looked around and saw some of my dearest friends wading in this, up to their necks.

How could this happen?

By degrees, of course. From the several podcasts I listened to there emerged a pattern:

  •  Flattery
  •  Platitudes, mingled with scripture
  •  Mockery & Falsehoods
  •  Allowances
  •  Fortification, the other kind

Allow me to go into detail, 

Flattery: Let's admit something, guys. We thoughtful Mormons know think we're so dang smart. We don't mind reminders about this. When we're told that all of our struggles in the Gospel are the result of our brilliant minds, it's intoxicating.

Platitudes, mingled with scripture: I heard quips from the beatitudes here and there, but the meat of the Gospel was scarce. I've noticed that when people leave the Church they forget all that was profound about it and end up lumping it in with other churches. Given that Mormonism is a demanding religion, it begins to sound like foolishness for one to continue practicing it when the blessings are no longer apparent.

Mockery & Falsehoods: This was a big one. Elder Maxwell once said there should be "no more uncontested slam dunks" against the Gospel. With those words in my mind, my ears nearly bled during the podcasts. People were allowed to say all sorts of things: That Mormons weren't allowed to follow the scientific method, that women can't have careers or passions, that the apostles and prophets are expected to be perfect, and so on. This was all taken at face value and laughed at. I was not amused.

Allowances: Suddenly it became OK to call the First Presidency and the apostles all sorts of names. Cowards, crooks, dinos, you name it. More than that, Mormonism was being redefined. Don't believe in the Book of Mormon or that Joseph Smith restored the Gospel? Okie dokie, all that matters is that you're a good person... Malarkey. That may be fine for people outside the Church, but its members are expected to hold a standard of integrity. Any and everyone who's baptized should know this.

Fortification, the other kind: Something that was most impressive (in a frightening way), was how well the podcasts and their offshoot blogs set up a standard to insulate doubts. I discovered this after I bore testimony to a friend about the divinity of Christ. He referred me to a list of dos and don'ts for active members speaking to those who were going apostate, I mean, "taking a different path." On this list I wasn't allowed to suggest that the adversary was working on him nor plead that he pray for strength to return to the fold. How convenient, right?

That is my report.

Do not, let me repeat, do not rest your testimony on these things or the people who promote them. It's OK to question, it's OK to struggle, but anything that strokes your ego at the cost of your relationship with Christ is no good. It's not even a sandy foundation, it's kitty litter.

As we say on the street, check yourself before you wreck yourself.

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