Subtitle: Cultural Unrighteeous Dominion in the LDS Setting
Quite a Facebook discussion went on between a couple of friends and I over an article originally blogged by Feminist Mormon Housewives called You’re On Satan’s Side. It outlines a young man’s experience in an LDS congregation where his mother felt that he was singled out by leadership and socially ostracized by many others for deciding not to serve a full-time LDS mission.
My comment, which I thought would be the only one, was to post the pic just above and add: “I can understand the parent’s heart, but I can also understand Matthew 10:37. She is walking a very fine and dangerous line.”
37 He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.
An LDS friend I will call Mariah, took umbrage at my statement, responding,
“Well, Katie… Having had this same type of criticism blasted at myself most of my life, I understand where she is coming from. Having someone in power tell child they are following Satan just because they do not feel that a mission is for them is irresponsible and wrong. I know plenty of return missionaries who went because they ‘had to’ only to. [Then they] came home and never went to church again. THAT is more wrong than not going to begin with. Parents should not MAKE children do anything, no one should when they are that old. Encouraging them, however, is appropriate; being proud of the choices they make; and saying ‘this was not awful or horrible just not ideal’, is important too… God created each of us to be individuals and to have free agency. Taking that away or insisting to the point of harassment is not of God at all. SO many parents have driven their children from the church with the attitude of imposed perfection… that is not their right. The Lord and prophets have said raise them up and they will make good choices. He never said MAKE them do anything.”
“I agree with where you are coming from and stick to my original post as well. it is a fine line. I think even God walks it… And I think a lot of the leadership suck at it. Huge example from my life: I was the whistleblower on a situation getting out of hand. Went to my bishop for help. What did he say, and accusingly, condemningly, to me? “As a man thinketh, so is he… there is no difference: you have committed the act already in your heart.” I asked for clarity, ‘Do you mean I am really no longer a virgin?’ His firm and accusatory answer: YES!… To which I burst into tears, and inwardly gave up completely on the struggle against my seducer. This bishop knew who the other party was … Yet I was the culprit/cause/bitch and nobody jumped to help me or remove me from that home while there was still time… and hope.”
Mariah liked my response, but then asked, “What are you defining as a fine line?”
“Janice”, the LDS friend who had originally posted the article joined in,
“Bishops are imperfect men. That is why I cling to the gift of the Holy Ghost to guide me way before any human’s opinion. My bishop gave me some advice two weeks ago that sent chills through me. I knew his counsel was only his opinion and gently told him so and thanks anyway. It was about [a family member], which he knew nothing about. I went home, and prayed about it gain and got the same sweet answer. Leave vital answers to the Lord!”
“Okay *head nodding* that helps put things into perspective. You know some of my experience with former leaders. There are times they make bad decisions that cause so much harm. Thanks for clarifying.”
“[A family member went on a mission] even though he didn’t feel he should for personal reasons. He went due to pressure. Sure enough, he had to go home early. The feelings of failure and depression drove him to suicidal thoughts. He’d so wished he’d listened to his heart and prayers. We are not robots. We are unique individuals with the right to personal revelation and choice, which no one has a right to judge except God.”
“[Janice,] I am sorry your [family member] felt forced to do something good. I am sorry for the ripple-effect therefrom. I know what that is like, too.
The scriptures speak of something like how if we give a gift grudgingly, it really isn’t a gift at all. I think this is big problem in the Church. It happens with anything we really do not want to do but feel expected to do: visit/home teaching, callings, BSA, whatever. I was raised by a Mom who really didn’t want to be home with me, but as a bishop’s wife, was expected to be. She didn’t have to say a word, but I knew and felt that resentment every single day.
The world is now preaching: ‘do your own thing. Do what makes you happy. Be true to you.’ Well, I guess so. But, you see, I tried that ice cream flavor. It’s okay… But it’s not nearly as delicious as humility, changes of heart, new insight and understanding, and sincere trusting obedience (even when you don’t understand). I can’t always do this… Either because of me, the other party, or both… But when I do what is asked, by someone who I really believe is speaking for God, the reward is sweeter than all that is sweet. I wish it could happen more often… And I really try to make sure that the reason it isn’t doesn’t lie in something amiss with me… because a lot of times, it does.”
“You’re right. But don’t we all progress at different times? I just wish people would try harder to live by the Spirit. It’s not that hard. That would solve so many broken hearts caused by insensitivity.”
“‘Though I speak with the tongue of men and angels, and have not charity…’ I remember once, as an adult, having this heated conversation with my Mom where she wept and snarled out bitterly that it was a lie that charity never faileth! Look at all she had done! All she had sacrificed! Children whose parents had been far worse… drunk, beating them unconscious, out philandering or whatever, still loved THEIR parents, but few of her children loved her! What was the point, then, of this lie of ‘charity never faileth’?! And she talked of her years of service to the Church but how women in Relief Society treated her the same way.
That’s when I finally started to have compassion for my mother. She was speaking, really of the difference between her own childhood and that which she gave to us girls. She was speaking of her struggle, which I also have, of learning how to love when it doesn’t come automatically, and you feel that you have had no example or model.
New thought: Maybe she HAD really done her best, even with all the hurtful mistakes. Maybe she really DID love me, but I had been too busy judging her to see that love. I wish, with church leaders I have butted heads with, for moments like this… of seeing for the first time, through that dark glass clearly. I have wanted to ask, ‘Do you really see me? Do I really see you?’
A few days later, another LDS friend, who I will call “Valerie” posted the following meme and comment on her Facebook page. I wanted to keep scrolling, really I did. But something inside whispered that I needed to inquire further.
So I inquired,
“I am assuming you have read the Humanist Manifesto I and II. Correct, Valerie?”
“I havent. Someone else shared this and I liked what it said.”
Feeling shocked, flabbergasted, torn… I almost decided to just leave it, again. But AGAIN came that feeling to engage. So I said,
“You are a kind person, Valerie, and it is reasonable that you would.”
Then Valerie answered,
“Thank you. I’m sure ‘humanist’ has a meaning. But I’m happy not knowing it. The point is still good. I also don’t really care for the page it was shared on… Oh well.”
Then I wondered to myself, What if I were a judge in Israel and somebody came into my office with a Gospel-related situation like this? What if Valerie were my own child? And then, I was very VERY glad that neither case was true. And I just kept scrolling.