Is Honesty The Best Policy?

For those of you who are up to date on all the Mormon issues, you may have heard that the church recently updated its website to include information on Race and the Priesthood.

Amongst fringe members and the Ex-Mormon community, this has caused quite a stir. There were a number of theories taught in Sunday School classrooms as to why black people were not allowed the priesthood until 1978. (1978! I have talked to people who were directly affected by this ban, not to mention many others who recall their embarrassment at having to explain this policy to black would-be converts.) The most popular theory was that black people alive during this period were unworthy because of things they had done in the pre-mortal existence. However, it seems this theory was unofficial and actually denounced by church leaders in the early 1900’s.

I talk often about how the church can essentially side-step responsibility for what is taught in classrooms due to the fact all lessons are done by members with no official training. This is a good example of that. Teachers within the church have been churning out these explanations for years, and these ideas had practically become gospel. This page denounces those teachings again and essentially blames the racist culture at the time for the ban, but due to the fact hardly any mainstream members are aware of the page, the non-official explanations may still hang around for some time.

The church has released more pages relating to issues with its history, for example, about polygamy and the translation of the Book of Mormon.  (The latter one is particularly interesting as it clearly states Joseph Smith translated the BOM using a seer stone and a hat.)  The fact the church is choosing to be honest about certain issues makes my life a lot easier, even if every admission comes with a large side serving of apologetics. At least now when I mention that the BoM was translated out of a hat, my Mormon acquaintances can’t just claim it’s all anti-Mormon lies.

I recently saw a meme similar to this on Facebook saying, “You learned about Mormons in class today? Please tell me more about my own religion.” Let’s see how long that smug face lasts when they read the new webpages…

 

‘Tis The Season To Be Less Cynical

I have a confession to make. ( I thought I’d confessed everything worth confessing on this blog already, but apparently not.)

I miss church at this time of year. I miss singing carols in sacrament meeting. I miss cutesy Christmas lessons. I miss ward parties. I miss watching Primary do the Nativity. (I especially miss the Primary Christmas songs.)

I guess I am one of those people who thinks Christmas should be full of traditions, the little things which you do every year. For me a lot of those things were church related, and Christmas as an atheist is quite different to the Christmas I had growing up.

Contrary to popular Christian belief, atheist Christmas does not solely revolve around consumerism. If anything, I have more of an appreciation now that Christmas should be more about spending time with and doing nice things for other people. I don’t have to spend every day reading scriptures about the nativity to understand that Christmas is not just about whether or not you get the latest iPhone.

However, I have to admire the way there are often local efforts made church wards to help those that are lonely or needy. Call me naive, but it was those times that I felt the church was not doing something just for its own image, not just because it was supposed to, but because there was a genuine desire to spread a little bit of joy at Christmas time. I can’t count the number of times we made and left care packages at people’s houses when we were in Young Women’s. I still think those were some of the best activities we did. I know people for whom these acts really have made a difference.

Yesterday, our house received a very large cardboard box filled with all kinds of items, ranging from tinned ham to Shloer (Mormon Christmas is not Mormon Christmas without Shloer.) I could be cynical about it, but I’m not. Perhaps there are people needier than us students, who are all going home for Christmas and will be force fed mince pies by our anxious relatives, but it was still lovely to just get this box of assorted goodies and knowing this isn’t some kind of guilt trip to get me back in church.

To say they’re an evil cult, these Mormons do sometimes get it kind of right. Of course, I could just be saying that because I’ve been bribed with free mince pies (and chocolate and cornflakes and potato and leek soup).

I hope you all have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

“She’s Not Worth It.”

I happened to overhear a conversation between two Mormons the other day about a mutual friend’s relationship. I have to say, it’s been a while since I heard a Mormon say something LDS-related which I so strongly disagreed with. (Maybe I’m getting used to these conversations, or maybe I’ve become better at avoiding them, who knows.)

Essentially, the mutual friend was a Mormon who happened to be dating a non-Mormon. They were complaining that he never brought this non-member girlfriend to church activities. This was apparently a very bad thing, because if she didn’t go to church activities, then she would never decided to join church. And, “As much as she’s a nice girl, she’s not worth losing out on a Temple Marriage for.”

I can see from a church member’s perspective that relationships with non-Members are a bad thing. It’s so strongly discouraged, for so many reasons. Frankly, as an ex-member who’s been on casual dates with Mormons, you see even more issues with the idea, (not just because of the more idiotic male members who think that, just because you don’t go to church anymore, that must mean you’re up for anything, no questions asked,) because you understand that the values of both people in the relationship are important, not just that your values are far more important because, after all, you have a testimony and that apparently trumps everything.

But, just because you can see problems with an idea, that doesn’t give you the right to tell people who they can and cannot date. If two people are happy together, whether they sometimes have disagreements over their beliefs or not, to be as horribly unsupportive and judgmental as these two members were being, it doesn’t make you a very good friend.

It makes me sad, and I wonder how many people that could have had fulfilling and happy relationships were prevented from doing so because of church leaders advising them not to do it, or because of “friends” like the ones described.

The church’s methods on this issue are very manipulative and controlling. Some leaders will ask family members or friends to discuss the issues like these with you instead of speaking to you directly. In the youth programme, they would tell sad stories of women whose husbands could not bless their children, and so other people would have to do it, and this was portrayed as some kind of travesty. If I had a pound for every instance I was told to marry a worthy return missionary, I could have paid for a wedding. As silly as it sounds, having to break promises you made to your younger self is so hard, and the church knows that.

I’m going to end the post here, before it gets too long. I’m very interested in knowing how other churches behave on this issue, so if you have any comments, please post them below.

Being a Man

I complain a lot on here about how it felt to be a girl growing up within church. The focus on “domestic bliss” was sometimes unnerving to say the least. It’s easy to say that women, denied priesthood and leadership roles, get a pretty raw deal.

However, I think the gender stereotypes that affect Mormon men aren’t discussed as much. There’s sometimes even this implication that men “have it good,” within the church. Having obviously never experienced life as a Mormon man, it’s impossible to say how uncomfortable the pressures can be. I’ve already posted once about the expectation for young Mormon men to go on missions. That’s pretty serious. However, there’s another kind of pressure.

I recently went to a social event run by one of my Mormon acquaintances. I met a friend there who I hadn’t seen in a while. She was discussing her college course and future plans with me.

“So yeah, I should finish the course, then work for a couple of years, and then hopefully find a man to support me!”

I was actually kind of speechless for a few seconds. I can’t remember what I replied, but I think I saved face somehow. I forgot about the expectations certain Mormon women have after all the time I’d spent at university, where I was surrounded by girls like myself who’d always wanted to be in a job that we loved, rather than something that would just tide us along until we found “the right man!”

(Actually, I had a very similar conversation with one of my housemates from last year who got married. The plan was to work until she was entitled to maternity leave. Her words, not mine.)

Anyway, I’ve drifted back into the woman perspective.

I’ve never really been that concerned with how much money I want to earn. Yeah, it would be nice to have a decent salary, but I’d rather do a job I love than focus really hard on earning a lot of money.

Essentially, the church teaches that men are meant to provide for the family. It’s right in The Family: A Proclamation To The World. (A document I would love to shred/burn/use to make a paper mâché effigy of someone I dislike and take a cricket bat to.) It’s their responsibility to bring home the bacon. The mother’s responsibility is to rear her beautiful children the way God wants them to be raised.

In today’s economic climate, it’s not easy to support a whole family on one person’s wage, but doing otherwise doesn’t fit into the church’s teachings, and therefore doesn’t match the expectations of potential marriage partners.

I can take a look a potential jobs and think, yeah, that will be a nice living for me. I don’t have to hope that it’s enough to support a wife and children. Obviously this is something a lot of non-Mormon men worry about too, but in modern society, there’s not the same amount of emphasis on men being the one to earn the most. Not to mention, most people don’t have to worry that they’re being sinful for putting off having children for “selfish reasons” A.K.A. they can’t comfortably afford to.

For that reason, Mormon men might not have the same problems as women, but they certainly don’t have it easy.

WoW, you hypocrite.

Tea, coffee, alcohol and cigarettes are all banned under the LDS church’s Word of Wisdom, or WoW for short. (It’s something that’s often cited by Mormons as proof that Joseph Smith was a true prophet, because he claimed tobacco was “bad for the body” well before scientists linked it to cancer and a host of other nasty diseases.)

I would argue that the banning of alcohol is one of the most influential factors that shape the Mormon lifestyle. They’re discouraged from even spending time in places like clubs or bars. I feel this really affects the ability of young Mormon adults to form deeper friendships with non-members. As a result, they only really socialize with other Mormons. This works to the church’s advantage, as you’re far less likely to question/disobey their teachings when all your friends are believers.

It becomes an issue for me when church members feel the need to comment on my alcohol consumption. Usually it’s done in a very light-hearted way, and sometimes it is a genuine joke, but more often than not I can really sense a feeling of superiority coming from the person commenting. I just want to turn around, laugh in their faces and say, “Haha, well. It’s a good thing your religion is an enormous pile of b******t then!”

What makes me angrier is when the person doing the commenting is clearly overweight. The entire point of the word of wisdom is to look after your body, yet I would bet good money that the proportion of Mormons that are obese is no less than that of the general population. Being overweight does far more damage than occasionally drinking alcohol. If they were truly following their own Word of Wisdom, they’d monitor everyone’s meat intake (one thing that’s mentioned in the WoW but rarely paid attention to,) and they’d ban people who had an unhealthy BMI from entering the temple.

I’m not the kind of person who ordinarily cares about how much another person weighs, but don’t lecture me about alcohol being bad for my health when your own lifestyle leaves much to be desired.

The Missionaries (Or The Angels Of Death By Boredom)

When I was a child, I saw the missionaries as a kind of nuisance. I’m not really sure why I felt this way. When they came over, my mum would cook a nice meal, and the missionary message would only take five minutes, maybe ten if they were the enthusiastic kind. Either way, that one missionary message while we could have been playing on the Nintendo was enough to make me and my friends nickname them the Angels of Death by Boredom.

As I grew older, I was indifferent to having them over for a meal. They would tell us about their families, which were usually of the large, American, Mormon variety. Some were very socially awkward, some were  loud and talkative, some were annoyingly earnest and some made inappropriate jokes across the dinner table. (Why did the woman cross the road? Who cares? What I want to know is why she was away from the kitchen sink!)

It was those times that I started to feel sorry for them. They were little more than teenage boys, who had given the church money and two years of their life so that they could work for free. Missionaries also live under incredibly strict rules. Think of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale and you won’t be far off. You are not allowed to spend any time alone, if you send a text message, you have to read it out loud to your companion. You are only allowed to listen to spiritual music. In some areas, you are limited to the Tabernacle Choir. You don’t get any time to do your own thing.

But I have gone off-topic again. I have friends that I grew up with who are now on missions. I don’t feel sad for them, because I’m sure that it is a unique experience, and they probably learn a lot, not just church related things, from their time away. It does, however, hit me when I see a pair of missionaries on the streets, that they are just ordinary guys, and they are probably very tired of people being rude to them.

Yes, they made the decision to spend two years shoving their religion into other people’s faces. But they did so under intense duress. I complain a lot about the pressure placed on women to get married to a return missionary, and to have children. I would say the pressure on teenage boys to go on missions is even stronger, and there is no escaping people’s notice when you reach a certain age and you haven’t gone yet.

So, if I ever come across them, I treat them sympathetically (unless they are really, really annoying). There’s enough of Satan’s minions trying to destroy them already. ;)

Top 5 Sacrament Meeting Daydreams

During the year in which I lost faith and still was attending church regularly, sacrament meeting was even harder to endure. If I listened properly to the speakers, I’d often feel quite frustrated about the fact I couldn’t point out the flaws or problems with what they were saying. Of course, even while I was faithful, I’d often be lost in daydreams during sacrament meeting. Now I could peacefully drift throughout my (rather unlikely) fantasies, completely uninterrupted by guilt. It was better that way.

If I could have gotten away with it, I would have just closed my eyes and gone to sleep. I sometimes did close my eyes for a little while, and I hoped that it was taken as a sign of spiritual reverie by those who could see me.

So, without further ado, my top 5 sacrament meeting daydreams:

1. I’m involved in some kind of freak accident that quadruples my IQ, and I end up as some kind of mega genius, and become famous/rich etc.

2. Very distant relative that we didn’t know of dies and leaves our family an absolute fortune. (Hmm, a lot of these fantasies seem to involve money…)

3.The mechanics of this one aren’t clear, but essentially end up with me meeting <really hot actor who I won’t name> and him totally falling in love with me, and we (possibly) get married but don’t have children, because, I’m sorry, but I’m just not the kind of girl who fantasizes about having children.

4. My writing career very suddenly and unexpectedly takes off, and I earn an absolute fortune, and they even turn my novel into a film. (This is perhaps how I meet <really hot actor who I won’t name>.)

5. President Monson et al. turn around and say, “Surprise! This was all just a big wind up! Bet you guys are feeling embarrassed!”

 

The British Pageant And A Rather Optimistic Prediction.

So, for a few weeks the LDS church hosted a pageant in Chorley, which was meant to highlight the history of the church in the British Isles. Since I didn’t attend, I can’t say exactly how truthfully or accurately this history was presented. Some of my acquaintances have been involved in the running of it and a couple of my housemates attended the event. They enjoyed it and found it “intensely spiritual.”

One quote caught my attention:

Asked his views of the future of the Church in the United Kingdom, Elder Nelson said, “I see a great resurgence of activity and continuing growth for the Church, not only here in the United Kingdom but in the whole of Europe. We know that the number of missions is increasing, the number of converts will continue to increase, and the activity in the temples is booming, and it will continue to go up. As the world ripens in iniquity, the standard, the light, and the love of the gospel is going to loom even more apparent to everyone, and the Church will grow.”

I think anyone who is Mormon, or has been Mormon for any length of time within the UK would say this is a rather optimistic prediction. I mean, I could spend a long time talking about how the retention rates after baptism are abysmally low and about how many children born into the church choose to walk away, but you get the idea. The UK in general is becoming less religious, and the LDS church is not immune. It just adds to current church members’ perception that the world is ripening in iniquity.

In my old ward, the members struggled to make things work. You had particular people that would go from heavy-duty callings such as Primary president straight into other such callings like Young Women’s counselor. We had couples from other areas assigned to our ward because of the lack of priesthood holding men. Eventually, the ward was merged with another one, and these consolidations aren’t rare.

Membership is technically growing, but that’s only because if you get baptized and never go to church again, they still count you as a member until you’re 110. The number of missionaries has gone up, but only because they’ve lowered the age limits. If temple activity is going up, it probably has a lot to do with the church’s aging population (older people have more free time to do temple work) than any increase in faithful members. I obviously don’t have any priesthood power guiding my predictions, but I really, really doubt the church will see any meaningful boost in activity in the future.

Of course, if it happens, I’ll eat my words. Until then, I’ll be getting very, very ripe indeed with iniquity…

Personal Progress and Virtue

All Young Women within the church are asked to complete the Personal Progress Programme.

This originally involved completing various tasks and a 10 hour project for each of seven “values.” The values are Faith, Divine Nature, Individual Worth, Knowledge, Choice and Accountability, Good Works and Integrity.

These values were listed in the Young Women’s Theme, which you had to stand and recite at the beginning of every Sunday lesson and before every young women’s activity on a Tuesday. I used to see how robotically I could say it without my leaders noticing, which was very robotically indeed, seeing as everyone always recited it in complete monotone.

While there was a rather heavy focus on preparing for motherhood, I would say that at least some of the experiences and projects, particularly those that encouraged girls to develop talents and build self-esteem, were useful. Certainly in my stake, I often felt depressed because I wasn’t as pretty as other girls, and I felt far more pressure to look good at church activities than I did at social events outside of church. So, I felt the focus on self-worth was the youth programme’s saving grace in that respect.

However, if you clicked the link, you may have noticed they added another value. Virtue. Now, this was introduced when I was halfway through the Young Women’s programme. The only thing I ever learned to associate with it was sexual purity. Virtue was brought in at a time when church leaders (I have no idea how far up this goes, whether it was something church-wide, or just in our area) decided they wanted to be clearer about sex and sexual activity.

When I first heard about this, I kind of welcomed it. I was looking forward to some honesty and discussion on the subject. Instead, we were just told in clearer terms that any kind of physical intimacy before marriage was strictly forbidden, including passionate kissing! In fact, just try not to get too close to the opposite sex at all. End of topic.

This was downright laughable. I may not have had the most Molly Mormon friends on the planet, but even the more faithful Mormons I know/knew have done some sporking/grabbing or at least engaged in a make-out session.

Maybe that’s why they felt the need to introduce Virtue? Make it clearer that those kind of behaviors aren’t acceptable? Either way, it didn’t work and if it was up to be me, I’d be scrapping it at the earliest opportunity.

 

TV Is Underrated.

When my sister moved out of this house a couple of months ago, she took her massive TV and the subscription to Virgin with her. We moved a tiny TV into the front room, and eventually we managed to get a larger one, but seeing as we don’t even have a freeview box, it’s not like any of us lounge around in the front room watching crap TV shows anymore.

This has resulted in us spending much more time in our rooms, alone, which is kind of sad. I’ve taken to spending time on my laptop in the front room, in the hopes that I’ll actually end up talking to my housemates more often. Unfortunately, the only people I end up talking to is my engaged housemate and her fiancee, who spend nearly all their time at this house.

I’m not even kidding. He leaves at like 1am and comes back again at 10 in the morning. It’s not that I don’t enjoy talking to them, it’s just that we don’t really talk. They just end up snuggling, murmuring and giggling to themselves, which makes me feel kind of awkward. 

The reason they’re over here all the time is that his house is often empty, and so it wouldn’t be Mormon kosher for them to spend too much time there. So I’m kind of the unwilling chaperone. Except I just end up being driven to my room , because I really do feel like a complete lemon sitting there while they’re pawing at each other. What’s even worse is when I just walk through to front room to get to the kitchen or bathroom, and they’ll both be sprawled across each other, completely still, as if they think that I can’t see them if they don’t move.

Worse still, when he leaves, they often make out by the front door, which is right next to my room. This makes me feel really awkward, because it’s like they’re having a private moment, and yet I can hear pretty much everything they say/do. I don’t want to eavesdrop on these things, and more than one have I placed a pillow over my ears to muffle out the noise. ****They are actually doing this RIGHT NOW,  as I type****

Anyway, they’re getting married in a few days. ****Please, please stop kissing so loudly!****

So I won’t have to deal with it any longer.

****No! There is really no need to moan like that when you’re just making out!****