making a name for myself

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Last Sunday, I managed to cause my first kerfuffle in my singles ward. That it took over two month is either commendable or suggests that I'm losing my bite. It came about in Elders Quorum, where the topic of the week was the marriage lesson in the Spencer W. Kimball manual. This is always a sort of confusing subject to address in a singles ward, as none of the members nor the teacher are married. Usually, it devolves quite quickly into a discussion of why we should want to get married, how we should go about it and so on. Again, advice here must be taken somewhat skeptically, since if there were experts on this topic, they'd probably have put it into practice and therefore be ineligible to attend the ward.

So, the lesson started off in that direction and then the President (who was giving the lesson because of a failure of communication with his teachers) called on this new-ish guy in the ward. This guy was really keen to teach the lesson. I mean, REALLY keen. So, the President stepped aside to this brother's desire. This eager beaver started out by asking what our families have contributed to society. So, people made comments that ranged from inane (we're loved by our family) to traditional (they teach us values, discipline, how to interact with other people) and the ones that actually answered the question (my family produced a number of children who are now working). At this point, I raise my hand to ask, "Why do we need a family for us to learn these things or to have these impacts on society? I mean, we'd still know love and discipline and values if we were all raised on highly functioning communes. So, why families?"

You know your comment is heterodox when, before you've even finished framing the thought, half a dozen hands shoot up and the people raising them are practically falling off their chairs. Oh, you also know you're out in left field if four of those six people basically rephrase this idea: that's the way God likes it. Oh, come on, people, we can do better than that, surely. To be fair, the Deus volt argument is not without merit. Perhaps the only reason is because God's personal opinion. My problem with this approach is that there is no way, at least not that I've found, to really counter it. Especially for Mormons, a people so certain they know God's will that I honestly wonder how the term revelation can even be understood in the Church today.

Well, after these comments, the teacher asks if that answers my question. I'm honest and say, "Not to my satisfaction but we can move on." Which he does, to something about breaking a cycle of dysfunctional families and how if we all had strong families there wouldn't be any troubles in the world. I start shaking my head, thinking if he continues, he's veering dangerously close to getting a sigh from me. But he notices my head shaking and calls me on it.

"It's a true principle. How can you disagree with you? Do you not believe the principle?" Frankly, I don't. Just because families are happy and love each other doesn't mean that trouble evaporates. Life is way too complicated to be boiled down to the disintegration of the home as the source of all ills. When I share my opinion here, I get called Doubting Thomas by the teacher. Which probably suggests he's got pretty negative impressions of doubt, which is a shame.

Right after this lesson, which fizzled out shortly after my last disagreement due to time constraints, the counselor in the Elders Quorum Presidency leans over to me and says, "Good comments. If you ever have any questions or want to talk about this some more, I'd be willing to help you understand it. I mean, seriously, any questions and I won't think less of you for them." Great. It's a very small step from this patronizing to project. I wonder if I'll actually finally be assigned home teachers or something. Oh well, at least people know me now as the apostate I am.

Later that day, I was fulfilling my calling as welcoming co-chair and one of the people we had to visit was the guy who taught this lesson. I don't want you to get the wrong impression, he was a very good teacher and took my statements entirely in stride with a laugh. So, he's not one of the strictest steadfasters. But we go to visit him and we're having a nice little chat, during which I've just told a very brief description of the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Don't worry, I didn't implicate Brigham, but I didn't exactly clear him either. After this, this guy turns to me and says, "Can I ask you a tough question?" I'm suddenly gripped with a worry about what he's going to ask me. Maybe he's wondering what sin is keeping me from accepting the truth. Or perhaps he wants to know if I actually have a testimony or support the Brethren. Or maybe it's more secular and he wants to know if I've ever been diagnosed with some mental disorder. It's none of these. In fact, "are you an intellectual?" is not really what I'd consider a mind-bending query. I answered in the affirmative and he left it at that.

I guess there's worse things you could be considered than an intellectual. But not many, if you're a Mormon. I'll just have to be careful to not let anyone know I'm a Democrat, or a libertine, or a feminist. Wouldn't want to be called to repentance before I've even done anything, now would I?

3 comments:

Anne said...

Wow. There is so much I could say... and so I can't seem to find words to write... wow.

librarianite said...

You are such the devil's advocate. I'm a little dissapointed in you though. Clearly the nuclear family isn't the Lord's ideal. We were originally polygamists were we not? Which boils down to an absentee father and being raised by your mother and any number of "aunties."

on another note - the word verification for this comment begins with the letters byu - creepy.

Katya said...

Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD.

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