Monday, September 24, 2012

Mormons: Not So Weird After All

Preamble: We the Mormons, in order to form a more perfect people, establish families, ensure domestic tranquility. Provide for the common congregation,  promote the general welfare, and insure the blessings of eternity for ourselves and our posterity, do restore and establish this peculiar church of Jesus Christ..of Latter-day Saints.

I guess you could call this "Part II - The Little Gray Fish." I probably should keep my mouth shut...but it's just impossible. 

I'm almost certain that when I experienced the tradition of the windsocks in Japan ( The Little Gray Fish ) God was saying "you are going to have to talk about the Gospel in a time when people think it's weird. As soon as I invent blogging, you will be required to write about being a Mormon. People trust you. They think you have good sense (mostly). You won't be famous. You won't ever be covered in the latest fashion. But you have a big mouth so get out there and use it.

This past month, a couple of things happened that compelled me to write boldly about my faith. The television show, Rock Center, did a entire broadcast centrally focused on my religion, and a friend of mine, a strong woman that I thought I knew better than I did, declared the church to be oppressive and gave it a very public way. I felt the things she said were an attempt to make me (Mormons) feel stupid that I am adjusting my grip every day and hanging on to my silly religion...or rather, letting it hang on to me with "it's hands around my throat." Another friend of mine, commenting on our mutual friend's dissension said "That was dumb. Doesn't she know Mormon is the new black."

Am I being paid by the Mitt Romney campaign to write this blog? WAH! I WISH! (Brother Romney, if you're reading, we need smaller class sizes. We need to be able to pay good teachers what they're worth. You want to create more jobs? You've got to create passion for creativity and innovation and that disappears somewhere after the First Grade...we need to talk. Call me.) 

I have been a Mormon for the past 39 years. I was baptized in 1972! 

I remember SO MUCH about 1972. My sister and I had an elaborate playhouse that my dad built in our back shed back then and we role played that we were married to Donny and Jimmy Osmond. Our pseudonyms were Wendy and Kathy.The Tradition of the Unexpected We had a neighbor I adored named Cliff Austin that treated me like his own granddaughter. The other neighbors ducks laid their eggs in our yard. My brother released the emergency brake that year while we were playing in the open station wagon. The car rolled backwards taking off a passenger door before my mom could stop it from rolling through the neighbors living room.

The first time I swore was in 1972 and I remember exactly where I was and what I said. My favorite pair of pants were some lavender corduroys. I still love corduroys but Andy calls them "firestarters" because of the heat they create when rubbed together...between a pair of chunky's true, fatties like me shouldn't wear corduroy in the forest on a red burn day. You should be able to see light between your legs all the way to your promised valley if you're going to wears cords. Or carry a fire extinguisher around. Just sayin'.

I digress. Wow.

I was given the option of not getting baptized, but do you turn down all those cards and gifts? No way! There was no brainwashing involved. I've since tried to leave the church several times! But I have a real distaste for the feeling that I am lost. There's no control in "lost" ;-) and I like control. I also felt, that with my knowledge base, even if it was only a hunch sometimes, turning my back on religion was in fact, spitting in the face of Jesus Christ. My faith is a gift. I could never bear the thought of giving it back for very long.

Because we were always doing fun things with our congregation when I was young, I equated Mormonism with happiness. I think that's partially true. It was easy to see back then. I fight for happiness now. Not because I'm Mormon, but because I'm an adult. 

The flip side is that life comes at you and cracks its ugly knuckles over your head sometimes and there is no crying in Mormon-dom! Sometimes you make mistakes, we deal with it optimistically. When someone dies, we'll see them again, they're better off. When we have a tragedy, it's for our own good. When we make a dumb choice, that's okay. We humbly learn from that. I think those traits are true for nearly every religion! Some of the best people on the earth, in my life, leading the world, are not Mormon! God doesn't just work through the Mormons. Though we do our fair share I think.

I really liked the Rock Center special and I love that it described the church as one of "self-reliance." You need chicken? Got it. Wheat? Got it. Cotton, dairy, corn, toilet paper for 15 million? GOT IT. When the storms blow in, call the Mormons. In fact, you won't even have to. The Mormons probably already have a plane full of relief headed straight toward the storm.

The Mormons grow gardens just to put it in food storage or give it away. The women in my neighborhood sew birthing kits for Ghana, school kits for Nicaragua, children's clothing for the homeless in America and the list goes on and on. I have always associated the "Mormons" with action, self-reliance and optimism. Put the wheel back on the cart and keep moving. Do, share, give, then do some more. Lose yourself in the work. Sharing, loving and doing have never made me unhappy. Those things have almost always healed me too. 

Thank you Rock Center's Harry Smith for also reminding me that my parents sacrificed to pay for me to serve a mission and see the world. It shaped me as nothing else could have. It gave me a sense of humor, courage, self-reliance, but MOST of all He gave me a sense of my divine nature which connects me to something so much bigger than this little world and my little problems. My world became very big because of my mission. It was a set of lessons that just can NOT be taught in any university. Don't say we Mormons have our heads stuck in the sand. There are five languages spoken at my house. My mother sews re-usable sanitary pads for the women in Uganda. I worked in a refugee camp! I was given the opportunity to love a lot of people in a time when they were at their very lowest. GOD lifted them, through us, by putting us in their path. And we were lifted right back. We can and should be responsible for the welfare of God's children...everywhere. That's not weird! 

I also liked being reminded that people around the world think the missionary experience is ridiculous. I'm not kidding. (Thanks Book of Mormon - the musical)  IT IS. Who in their right mind would trust the strength of their religion to 50,000+ 19 and 21 year-old young punks out to proselyte God in every nook and cranny of the earth?  God would. In every divers language? God! I learned THAI for crying out loud. You think John Huntsman came up with that Chinese because he plugged in the Rosetta Stone every night for two weeks?

Think about it - if Mormons are so secretive, why would we send our punk young kids into the world to knock on every door, give you a free book, explain the book to you and invite you to come into the church and know E.V.E.R.Y. S.I.N.G.L.E. thing that we all know? 

How do I know God watches over those white shirts and ties? Because I was hit by a truck one day, a monkey jumped on me, a cobra lifted it's head out of our front weeds while we were praying one day, I wrecked three bicycles to smithereens, I was in the hospital three times with dysentery and once with kidney stones, I worked in polio wards, de-wormed Khmer children, had a rifle pointed at me, got propositioned by hookers that were earning money for their gender transition surgeries and got lost in Laos...just to name a few good memories. I was a stupid KID. Unless He's left the country since, God protects those young Mormon punks even the ones that are struggling with their faith, their obedience, or maybe even their sexuality. Hey cast of The Book of Mormon, keep telling everybody how weird that is, raise those questions.

(I have only listened to the sound track of the musical. I could never afford to actually see it. In response to the media requests before the musical's preview, the LDS church released the following: "The production may attempt to entertain audiences for an evening, but the Book of Mormon as a volume of scripture will change people's lives forever by bringing them closer to Christ."  - About the Book of Mormon: The book, I know that to be true.)

All that I have is because of God. My parents? God. My work ethic? God. My awesome new job? God. Andy? God. Noah? God. My 16 year-old car that should not work...but it does for some reason because I need it too? God. 

I'm half kidding about the last one... but I can't explain it any other way so I'm going with God.

There was one other thing I really liked about the Rock Center special. And you might not like my opinion. The following Sunday at church, the hot topic was the fact that they posted a picture of the Mormon underwear. Dum..dum...dummmmmm. That was all the talk. I actually liked the fact that they showed my underwear on T.V. You know people have wondered. And one man's weird is another woman's door to corduroy because when I started wearing garments I was able to buy corduroy pants again. It cut the heat element right out. My bra doesn't dig into me anymore. My clothes last longer, it puts a layer between the heat and my skin which actually keeps me cooler...think about it. ;-)

Now you've seen the big crazy mystery! If you want another look you can google it at any time. No big surprise there. So let's debunk the mystery a little. I'm tired of the questions. 

When can they be taken off? Do you think I would actually swim in them? Shower in them? Oh brother, use your good sense people! Do you think I would actually work out in them? No, Ms. Huntsman, we don't. Maybe if you were a practicing Mormon you would know that. Or maybe your Mormon friends are just that nuts. Could be. Do we have sex in them? Impossible. Like literally, impossible. But they are a constant reminder, like a prayer shawl, a wedding ring, or even a tattoo, that I have made sacred commitments to something I take very seriously. Everyone should learn to commit to something at that level. That's why we call the temple "God's University." Contrary to public belief, it's not BYU. Love ya Coug's!

P.S. The saggy excuse for the Mormon underwear seen in the picture on Rock Center is not so much what they look like now. Modern sensibilities exist in the Mormon church too. Lycra? Yes. Got it. Thermals for the members in Outer Mongolia? Yep. Camo for the military members? Yes. I'm just glad they didn't show the woolen garments from 1890. Yeeks.

One last question from the peanut Donny and Marie wear them when they know, I can't answer that, but for me, I don't usually wear them on stage because I sweat so much under all that light. D and M are workin' it in that show, W.O.R.K.I.N.' I.T. and by the end of the night they are drenched in sweat and that's not really, in my mind, respecting the garment. So even though, they don't wear costumes that would prevent them from wearing the prescribed undies...OH BROTHER!!! WHO KNOWS. WHO CARES?! It's none of my business. To each his own. I think Donny and Marie (and the entire Osmond family) have been nothing but outstanding ambassadors for the church all over the world. NINE little gray fish, that's who they are. 

Have you seen 50+ year-old Donny sing Crazy Horses in concert? It''s 1972 all over again. The man has still G.O.T.  I.T.

I digress again. 

Aside from Ms. Hunstman's professed knowledge about the church, there was one other thing I didn't like about the Rock Center was that they ignored the central belief of the church: that it's Jesus Christ that sits at the head of the Mormon church. What's so hard to believe about that? So many people think the Mormons have their own Jesus. Nope. Same guy. We just believe that we have another testament of His mission, His divinity..."other sheep I have that are not of this fold"...why is this such a hard concept to believe? It's such a no-brainer for me. Religious folks are so territorial sometimes! (Waaaahhh!)

I guess it's also easy for me to believe that a young kid, a teenager (of course, because teenagers still have an open mind) wanted to know what religion to follow and God and Jesus Christ appeared to Him. Two people. And they gave him a record of peace and the tools and means to translate it in modern times. 

You can fight me, you can tell me I belong to a cult, but do you really care? Or do you just think it's weird? Weird sells, ya know. And that's why I think they left Jesus Christ out of Rock Center. Jesus isn't that weird. He's been around for centuries.

Consider this, even if He was just a great human man, think of all the good the Christian people of the earth (of which I am one) have done in His name, because they strive to act like Him, to be His hands on earth. I can't imagine a single bad thing about that unless you pick up weapons instead of bread. 

The little gray fish is the true symbol of the Mormon church for me. Opening our big mouths, doing more with less, optimism at it's true potential. Do other churches do the same thing? YES YES YES!!!! Are their good people that don't believe in God?! Are you nuts? Most people are GREAT. We are all His children. 

Do the Mormons think they're perfect? Yes...yes we do. Just kidding, geez. Though I do think some of them (I won't mention the Eagle Forum here today) are hardcore fundamentalists that never fully committed to the concept of FREE WILL. They need a pair of the new Lycra underwear. That will relax them! In fact, fundamentalists don't last long in the Mormon church, or as I've noticed, in any church. I've seen them get offended too easily by the rest of us sinners and go off and start their own rule books. I believe that church is a place for sinners. I'll always be found there. No one's perfect. No one will ever be perfect.

We are waiting for further light and knowledge like everybody else. We believe that we have a living prophet that will open those windows when it's right. Hmmmm...maybe I should be more specific...I believe, that we all, ALL, have a living prophet that is God's mouthpiece on the earth. What a nice addition to life! Woot!  A direct line to God...imagine that. 

I've never been unstable where this is concerned, just so you know. I'm not on any kind of pill, punch or spell. I've come to know this gradually over the last 39 years as a pretty sensible kind of person. But..I know it to be true and even though I joke a lot and sometimes I'm irreverent, please take my word for it, if you can use it. It's not easy to say that so publicly to all my friends that struggle with my decision to keep both feet in the Mormon church. But I've not been known to keep my big mouth shut either.


Until we get more understanding, let's choose to find the smallest wind and go with it. Everybody lighten up! It's going to be okay.

While we wait, let's choose love. Let's choose tolerance toward everyone. Even the Sister Wives. ;-) Let's choose dinner and a movie, I'll order the cheese sticks, you have a glass of wine, we'll share the popcorn. I won't judge you, you won't judge me and we'll all look after each other. Let's take care of the children, especially. Let's work along side each other and give our excess and our knowledge to each other.  

Because that's what Jesus would do.