What, Me Worry?By: hawkgrrrl
With the increased scrutiny of the church in the media recently, a new fear-promoting rumour has apparently begun to circulate. From a memo the church has released:
“The following statements are being attributed to Elder David A. Bednar about what he purportedly said would happen if Mitt Romney wins the Republican nomination:
· That persecution to the Church would increase and be more intense than any yet experienced in our lifetime.
· That sacred elements of the Church would be disparaged.
· That our testimonies would be tested.
These statements are distorted and inaccurate and should not be used, repeated, or passed on to others. Kindly inform those who use them or send them to you that they are spurious.”
So, of that list, sacred elements of our faith being disparaged has certainly happened, whether as a byproduct of the election or the advent of the internet. As a good friend cheekily pointed out, the biggest problem with the world gaining access to the temple ceremony information via Google and YouTube is that now everyone can get through the veil into the Celestial Kingdom. There goes the neighbourhood!
The third item, testimonies being tested, is an inevitability for some. In my view, whatever doesn’t kill us makes us stronger and more empathetic. Maybe we’ll start getting more comfortable with faith being faith rather than trying to force fit our faith into the cruel shoes of “knowing.” Maybe we’ll all gain a dose of humility in the process. Will we land at the cool kids’ table? Well, it’s religion. Is there a cool kids table?
The first bullet, that persecution of the church would increase and be more intense than any yet experienced in our lifetime, seems entirely relative. For those who’ve lived a fairly sheltered religious existence where Mormonism is a well understood majority or even a fairly well accepted minority, this may be true. For those of us who grew up being asked if we had horns under our hair or if we were going to have multiple husbands (at the time I wasn’t sure I was even going to have one boyfriend let alone multiple husbands!) or told that a friend’s pastor said we Mormons were hell-bent on world domination and killing Christ at the second coming . . . meh. I’m not that worried. And if you have always lived a sheltered Mormon existence, you are probably going to continue to be mostly insulated from the effects of negative press.
The last thing we need is a bunker mentality that pits us against the world, especially when the treatment of the subject so far has been measured. For every detractor, there have been supporters. For everyone treating what Mormons hold sacred lightly, there are those calling for tolerance and respect. And for everyone on the outside trying to make Mormons look bad, there are several on the inside doing a fine job of just that. Some of the best defences of the church have been written by former and lapsed Mormons who are able to interpret LDS culture for a non-LDS audience in a way that promotes respect and understanding. He that is not against us is for us.
On the upside, we’ll have to scrutinize and let go of some things that are not good (like sexism, homophobia, weird indefensible doctrines, white-washed history, and insular attitudes). We’ll have to develop a thicker skin. We’ll also be seen as much more rational and tolerant than many might have expected (and than a few of our peer religions in the religious right). We will ultimately find greater acceptance, which is perhaps the greatest fear of our religious competitors. Religion in general will take a big hit, though, because that’s one of the key defence plays: that we’re no weirder, just newer than other churches. Mostly I welcome the changes that this scrutiny will bring. We’ll become better in the process, like not stuffing ourselves silly with junk food right before a beach vacation where people will take pictures of us in our bikini. Fellow Mormons, it’s time to hit the gym and be ready to show our stuff. Like it or not, it will be seen, in all our muffin-topped glory.
Now is the time for the church to shed unsavory aspects of our culture that have previously been unchecked because they will now be brought to light and discussed in a public forum by our detractors. And change agents have taken notice. Skinny jeans sexual harassment went viral. GLBT students at BYU held an open forum discussing their sexual orientation as faithful members that I can’t imagine having been done by the majority of strange bedfellows the church worked with on Prop 8. Comments about racist folklore were immediately and sternly disavowed.
What other positive changes do you foresee for the church and Mormon culture in general as a result of this increased scrutiny?