Friday, September 28, 2012

Why We Fear Mormons

To say that the topic of Mormonism has become increasingly popular is an understatement.  And as people are discussing Mormons and their behaviors and rituals, people are quickly taking sides.  LDS figures in the news media are stirring debate and Americans, especially, are becoming polarized.  Despite their fairly unchanging view of the world, Mormons seem to be getting crazier by the second.  So why are Mormons so controversial?  Why does the tone set by discussions of this religion differ so much from the discussion of Catholicism, Protestantism, Jehovah's Witnesses, Buddhism, etc (Islam not considering)?

Mormons on Parade
Obviously a large factor of the increased heat on the LDS church relates to Mitt Romney.  Despite his attempts to make his campaign about something other than his beliefs, he has coaxed out the cavalry.  Mormon critics previously content at letting the LDS church be the LDS church feel threatened now that a Mormon may be making important decisions for them.  In an environment like a presidential campaign where everything is black and white, good and evil, right and wrong, sane and crazy--there is no way a misunderstood religion like Mormonism wouldn't come under some new fire.

My Dad Warned Me About You Folk
As much as Americans would like to think that they are not swayed by their parents' biases, we all have learned them.  Just as many Mormons are raised by Mormon parents who sway and teach them to believe in Jesus Christ, the Book of Mormon, and Joseph Smith, other parents were teaching their kids about the "quacks down the street."   Since the 1800's, Mormonism has always been equated with Polygamy (even after the practice was abolished in 1890).  Abraham Lincoln himself described polygamy as one of the "twin relics of barbarism," siting the Rupublican platform of 1856.  Mormons were portrayed as barbarians and rapists in movies and newspapers.  The fact is, that near-sightedness has not died out and many still hold on to the cultish reputation the church received in the 1850's.  Especially among other religions, the LDS church represents corruption, perversion, and outright barbarism.  Coincidentally most of these religions share a vast majority of common beliefs and practices with these "quacks."

I Was Mormon Once
Interestingly enough, the most intense fear and hatred of Mormons come from former Mormons.  This often stems from what they feel is the cause of their dysfunction in society or from having wasted their childhood living a Mormon life-style.  The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (which is the official name of the church) demands a great deal from it's members.  Members are to attend 3 hours of church once a week; they are commanded not to smoke, drink alcohol, drink coffee or tea (black and green, not herbal), encouraged to participate in activities and service projects throughout the week, attend the temple.  19 year old males are encouraged (and expected) to serve a 2 year mission, being sent wherever they are needed--this could range from the next state over all the way to Mongolia. 

Needless to say, being a Mormon isn't just something you believe, it's something you live; a lot is demanded.  So if someone comes to the conclusion that they do not believe in what they've been living their whole life, there is often a "how could you" effect.  They've lived their lives under certain assumptions and once that is taken away, they feel as if their world has been turned on it's head.  This isn't unique to the Mormon church, this happens as many children grow up and decide to lead a life very different than how they were raised.  Being an ex-mormon, however, gives that adolescent life-style a name to point their finger at.

Personal Note
I am an active Mormon, so obviously I have my biases.  Having done everything that has been expected of me so far (the mission, the church attending, the temple attending, etc.) there is a conclusion that I have come to.  If I were to leave the church tomorrow, I would still be grateful for the experience of growing up in the LDS church.  I can assure you that no belief, practice, commandment, expectation, or ritual was ever detrimental to my development as a quality human being.  In fact, any person (believer or not) living a Mormon lifestyle would be better off for having done so.   Most ex-Mormons I know (and I know and associate with quite a few) are good people, partly because they grew up in a wholesome and enriching way.  The ex-Mormons who consistently go out of their way to blame the church for their dysfunction always claim a life so much happier post-Mormonism, yet all I hear is how messed up the church has made them.  It isn't new that as people become unhappy or unsatisfied with their life and/or choices they are tempted to blame their parents (not to discredit legitimate parental abuse or neglect).  Being raised Mormon gives you something else that's easy to blame.  If only Mormons weren't so judgmental I would have been a happier person.  Scapegoats are common, a happy childhood is not.  Belief aside, a good, healthy, and active life is a happier life.

Here's some fun Mormons:


Saturday, July 7, 2012

Real Urges (or, The Babbling Blogger)

Every so often we are reminded how insignificant we are.  We suddenly, inexorably get the urge to do something more than we are doing.  Even if what we do is noble, productive, or even exhalting.  Today I was studying economics—a means to a financial end—when I got the urge to start writing.  I would imagine that most people get urges to do something other than sit quietly in front of a computer screen and type; my wife gets these types of urges (more often than I) and they compel her to be out in the woods or to do something adventurous.  My mind wants to create and feel like I am contributing to our collective thought (somehow adding a philosophical or humorous paragraph or two appeases these needs, even if no one reads them).  As a result, I arrange words into aesthetically pleasing sentences while paying more attention to grammatical structure than actual content.  Anyone reading this would attest to that.  

            In an effort to afford more substance, I will try to make this concept relatable to more than just myself and my wife: What urges you?  When you are bobbing through your busy day of productive, yet monotonous activities what calls to you?  The library?  The car?  The waves?  The movie theater (not just for entertainment, but those who really get inspired by creative cinema will understand this one)?  For my father, it is public policy.  His life is given spice and wonder if he can convince one person that his opinions of moving towards a better world are valid.  My wife (who thinks little of humans and more of animals), finds that time spent in nature detaches her from the greed and thoughtlessness of man and connects her more the sweet innocence of her favorite creatures. 
            Now for an analysis: So What?  What does it matter if I do or do not satisfy my urges to the betterment of my soul?  I would say that your real urges are God-given and, are therefore, a part of exhaltation and eternal progression.  Not to be confused with just any urges; these “real” urges soar above the urges (good and bad) that make up our daily life.  They are the urges that fill the gaps in our lives—the drive to perfect us.  These are the urges that will eventually lead us to our optimal selves… our epitome.  The utopia of individual and collective harmony is built on the real urges of the “every so often.”

            This is, of course, assuming that we a.) recognize and follow these urges and b.) want this desired outcome.  Some choose a life of mediocrity merely because.  Because it’s easy, because it’s fun, because it’s simple: these are all invalid excuses.  Mediocrity may be easy, but eventually, ease becomes an agonizing burden of self-mutilation.  “Fun” also becomes boring and vapid.  All of these reasons then rule the “simplicity” of mediocrity to be just plain wrong.  Simplicity would be to go where these urges lead you, not to fight against them.  At first, it may seem simple: to simply do nothing.  In time, doing nothing becomes the most costly and un-simple thing to do.  There are no valid reasons (besides perhaps the cunningness of the devil) for a soul to remain mediocre.  I therefore restate: some choose a life of mediocrity merely BECAUSE.

            Real Urges are the reason we stop and the reason we think deeply.  They are the cause of great discoveries and the inspiration for self-portraits.   They can be life-altering motivations or strange daydreams.  We are proudly ashamed of them or ashamed to be proud of them. 

            But what do I know.  I did not plan to write this or even take much aforethought about this subject.  I was simply following a pleasant urge.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Ambition Without Dreams

Have you ever wanted to be something? Have you ever thought “if only I could?” Has a career or lifestyle ever seemed so appealing that you felt like you had found your calling? You have? What’s your secret?
Our generation is often told that we can do anything we set our minds to. All we need is to pick a direction and work our hardest. Some would say that this is idealizing and that some will never fulfill their dreams no matter how hard they work. Some have dreams, but lack the drive and work ethic to accomplish them. What about us? What about the people who have developed a work ethic, who believe they can accomplish anything, who are even fortunate enough to have the resources and support to become ANYthing they set their minds to… and, along the way, neglected to develop a dream. We, who have all the ambition in the world, yet remain apathetic towards any ambitions. What do we do?
College? Certainly. Career? Absolutely. Further education? Why not? But what in the world do I do for the rest of my life. Some know from their childhood that they want to be a doctor or a fireman or a dentist. Some learn in college what their real interests are. Some NEVER figure it out and go wherever the wind takes them, ending up in a droll, mediocre living; a means to an end. Some… don’t want that.

I love to learn. I light up when I’m researching interesting historical figures or classic literature or musical genres. I have passion for a lot of subjects; none of which would make a suitable career or that I would want to ruin by MAKING them my career. So what now? Business school? Can’t go wrong their, right? Aside from the fact that most business-related subjects are so boring they make me want to take out a small business loan for a start-up firearm dealership simply so I can blow my brains out. But hey, it’s a means to an end, right? And what end is that? The end of my career? My life? Do I really want to spend the majority of my life in a job that blows so that I can enjoy my few years of retirement before I die?
Bottom line: I want to accomplish something grand--something of worth; something hard, improbable, fun, and completely fulfilling. I don’t care if it’s lofty or if I’ve got my head in the clouds. I like it there, it’s happy up there. Where it’s not happy, is here on Earth; being sensible, responsible, and directionless. HOW DO YOU FIND A DREAM?!?

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Why Won't He Call?

I call upon the goddess to aid me in telling the story of a love postponed. A tail of pining and immense attraction that left young lovers spellbound, yet compelled them to patience; in the midst of passion aflamed, any small amount of time may seam an eternity. Madness knocks on the door of the young lover kept from that which is held most dear.

As spring crept through the world, young Aphina—cousin to Aphrodite—galloped through the woods on her noble horse. Her hair darted and tossed as if to dodge the oncoming branches. Her beauty was said to be unmatched in the mortal world and her soul was as clear as an Olympian brook. Her horse slowed and trotted toward a nearby stream. After sliding off and noticing her unfortunate placement; she sat on a nearby rock to wash off her feet. Preoccupied, she failed to notice that she was not alone. Young Pathius had stopped at this enchanting stream to fish for sport. As son to local hero and Olympian Tharacles, much of his time was spent training and hunting in this forest, preparing for the day that he too could make a name for himself. Pathius let out an unintentional gasp, startling Aphina quite suddenly. His gasp was not due to the cold of the stream, nor from some accidently injury, but from cupid’s arrow. He had never seen such a beauty before. Aphina, well aware of his ganderings, quickly jumped up to gallop away. Pathius apologetically called out that he meant no harm and was simply startled by her beauty. As Pathius explained further, Aphina began to sense his sincerity and became flattered at his compliments and polity.

As the day wore on, Aphina and Pathius talked as if they had never met another person in their lives. Everything about them completely fascinated the other. Aphina, used to being gawked and whistled at, was taken in by Pathius interest in her soul. Pathius, on the other hand was completely enamored with the fact that he had found a beautiful young woman that actually had a soul. As night loomed, Aphina realized the hour and jumped atop her (very) patient steed. She was afraid of enraging her cousin Aphrodite (with whom she lodged). Unbeknownst to the young couple, Aphrodite had found and had been observing them privately after wondering what was taking her cousin so long.

As Aphina trotted away, she abruptly turned and yelled out the name and location of her home—much to Pathius’s relief. Aphrodite, being a tad upset for the delay, quickly made him forget this information. Pathius became quite angry with himself at forgetting such precious information, and so quickly; he brooded and tortured himself for hours. Two days went by and he still could not remember the address of the captivating Aphina. In sheer agony of soul, Pathius cried out in supplication to the goddess of love–pleading and begging for his memory to be restored. Aphrodite, surprised at the sincerity of the tortured, young lover and also realizing the harshness of her punishment, decided to restore his memory the next morn.

Ever since this day, men and woman wait at least three days to call after meeting for the first time, in appeasement and sacrifice to the goddess Aphrodite.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

One Love

Tonight, I was mistaken for a suicide risk. Now before you jump to conclusions, keep reading (ha, get it, jump to conclusions). Sitting in my apartment, I felt an unexpected wave of depression and hopelessness crash over me. I did what seemed useful: I ran. I ran out the door, down the walk, across the street, and 6 blocks south. I would have kept on running, but my brain had a chance to catch up to my feet and it had to ask “where am I going?” I stopped to gasp for breath. I had, up until this point, been running steadily faster and faster, ending at a thigh-burning life-or-death sprint. Some could say I was running away--away from responsibility, life, or something equally appetising to the field of psychology. Whatever... the faster I ran, the better I felt. As I turned right and walked a couple of blocks, the cold night air also caught up to me. One of my hands plunged into my pocket while the other grabbed my bicep, crossing my body tightly with my other arm. I was still in a stupor and was trying to get a grasp on the hellishly stressful week ahead so my head hung low. Unknowingly, I had become the most pathetic looking, scruff-faced, night-walker that ever graced the streets. As I rounded a corner to walk North, a man came into view standing on his porch. His friend came out of the basement apartment to share a smoke. We all glanced at each other. Shamefully, my first thought was, “I wonder if they’re up to no good.” I coolly turned my head back to the asphalt in front of me. Subconsciously I had positioned myself in the center of the empty road and I'm sure my hovering friend, the street lamp, was throwing a gloomy shadow over my shaggy face. The friends started talking to each other and all I could make out was something to the effect of “…he’s got a look in his eye…”

One spoke up and sayed “hey, you alright bro?”

Maintaining confidence in my tone I responded with a firm “Yeah, I’m fine, just walking stuff off, ya know”

“ok, bro”

“Thanks for asking though”

“Just don’t do anything crazy.”

I replied with a quick “I’m not gonna do anything.” I'm sure they couldn't see it but I couldn't help smirking from amusement.

“You’re worth more than that.”

To which I came back with an equally quick but genuinely grateful “ ‘ppreciate it”

My first thought was not one of shock at the comment; my first thought was how impressive it was that the man actually cared enough to say something. I never see anyone voicing concern for strangers—not even if they feel like there is cause to. I also found it interesting that out of all of the self-proclaimed saints (of the latter-day variety) that I encounter on a daily basis, these two smokers standing on their porch at 1:00 in the morning seemed to show more saintly charity. These guys showed more concern for me in their brief query than any BYU student had done in the past year. Meditating on his words I proceeded to evaluate my own worth (to God, humanity, and to myself), what I could do to have more charity toward my fellow man, how sad it was that I was perceived as somebody on his way to hurt himself… I don’t know what exactly I am to learn from this brief, laconic experience, but I do know that it is significant.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A POEM: "Occupate"

Lucky is the man that loves hard work
And thrives on the tasks and the noise
Of a life spinning out of control,
Neglecting all that it destroys.
How should his life lack any meaning;
His gaze is on what he enjoys?
Whether or not, his mind has forgot
What all of his neighbors and loved ones have sought,
What “ought” to his mind he employs

Foolish the man that revels in art,
Who’s fantasies flow out of calm.
Life still may spin, or maybe it twirls
With worlds and a sprite in each palm.
How is he to get anything done
If faith replaces each qualm?
And lo, what ho, to his dreamland he’ll go
Where Mahler and Checkov, Picasso, Thoreau,
And Poe will be singing him Psalms.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

My Friend Street Lamp

Sometimes I spend hours wandering the streets at night. I'll observe the night owls, think about things, or just listen to the city breath. This town has a shallow breath at night and if you're not listening, you'll miss it. I'm not usually out looking for anything on these late excursions; in fact, my motivation for walking around is often just to avoid doing nothing. What I end up finding, however, is character. I find charm in the streets and alleys of this small city. I find mediocre bands making their debuts in struggling cafes. I find late night magic and D&D tournaments in forgotten comic book stores with names like: The Dragon Keep. I find alleys with old fire escapes that are probably much too dangerous to use. I find temperamental street lamps--I wait underneath so that when the lamp turns back on, it will reveal me and not just an empty street. I find weekend dance parties in cramped living rooms with anxious circles of potential dancers. I find that sprinklings of rain don't just fall, they twirl and dance before a gentle collision with my face (something brought to light by my friend, the street lamp). I think I enjoy rain much more than I used to; I can tell by my walking speed. what once excellerated my pace is now inversely affecting it. It feels so nice against my face that I have an urge to experience it more fully; I start to untie my laces. Shoeless, shirtless, and shameless I walk through the back streets. The sidewalks are polluted with umbrella trees so I position my path in the middle of the road. No cars on these streets; I imagine most people have the prescribed amount of sense...