At the risk of introducing spiritual concepts.... you have noticed that the
entire Mormon theology is legalistic to its core. Conduct and behavior is
rule-motivated and guilt-motivated. "So we can feel good about this, as long
as we dont cross that fine line." And people begin to compartmentalize their
honesty and integrity to be able to justify themselves. It does lead to
incredible dishonesty. I have always felt that many mormons have a
tremendous difficulty with grey areas... especially with money... and this
legalisting thinking is what sets them up for it.
I suppose that a lot of it stems from the fact that, as a Mormon, you are
always under threat of failure. Life is viewed as an extended final exam and
your task is to have as few points taken off as possible. So you pester the
proctors about what exactly the professor is looking for, and then set about
trying to give it to him because he decides your eternal grade. Instead of a
concerned mentor trying to bring out the best in his students, you have a
petty tyrant who insists on things being done his way or no way at all.
Naturally, you brown-nose as best you can.
After reading about the experiences of others, I think I got out of
Mormonism relatively unscathed. I was never sexually abused, my family still
talks to me, I was unmarried at the time so divorce wasn't an issue. But I
think one of the most damaging legacies of my Mormon childhood is a constant
and irrational concern that everything I say and do is going on my permanent
record. Somewhere in the back of my mind I still worry about how much I can
get away with.
And with that comes an almost uncanny ability to think up lame excuses, the
flip-side of legalism. It can be anything from driving along and thinking up
some bullshit story to tell the cop if he stops me for speeding, to
concocting some truly imaginative reasons to feed my customers when they
want to know why I missed a deadline. Granted, when the time comes I usually
don't use these excuses--I acknowledge the speeding or tell the client I'm
sorry but the job just didn't get done in time--but there's still that
little excuse factory working overtime. Remember that county commissioner in
Utah trying to get off a drunk driving charge with a cock and bull story
about a hitchhiker slipping him a mickey? It's a perfect, if pathetic,
example. Anything not to take responsibility, anything for it not to be my
fault, because the consequences of it being my fault are so devastating.
This whole thing runs counter to a general Christian emphasis which pleased
for a "new heart in Christ" It seeks to somehow help someone from the inside
- out, rather than the outside - in. When someone "repents" of an old
lifestyle, asks God to change his or her) heart, and willingly desires to
follow Christ... so much of the need for these guilt-based rules simply drop
to the side. Let's call it "creation of a new man."
I like the theory, whatever reservations I may have about it in practice
<g. Mormonism is all imposition from outside. The name of the game is
coercion. And so, whatever adherence you give to its rules and ideas, you
give grudgingly. Everyone is searching for the least they need do, because
the reality is they really don't want to do much of this stuff at all.
To move the subject away from sex, something like Family Home Evening is a
case in point. It's good to set a time aside to do something as a family,
and in my house, Thursday nights have evolved into our fun night. It's
nothing formal, and it's nothing forced; it just works out that Thursdays
are good for playing sports and games and having dinner out, so we do. It's
a splendid concept that the church perverts into a painful indoctrination
session. Is there anyone out there who honestly found Family Home Evenings
enjoyable? And yet, there's no reason why being together shouldn't be
enjoyable, if you do it right.
Whether you couch it in terms like "repentance" or not, I think you're right
that changes can occur, and when it is an internal change--when you are
changing because you want to--there need be no guilt or force applied. And
that's not Mormonism.
However, I wonder if the difference between mainline Christianity and
Mormonism on this score is not one of degree. Both expect that, as a result
of your conversion, certain behavioral changes will take place, but as in so
many things, Mormonism tends to be very shallow in how it evaluates them. It
is satisfied with outward form, whereas mainline Christianity would probably
look for more substance. If you read the biography of Sydney Rigdon, there's
a point where, as a young man, he wants to become a member of the local
Protestant church. The requirement for membership was that you write about
your conversion, you submit a written testimony. Sydney's was reviewed by
the membership committee and rejected -- because they thought it sounded too
made-up! That would never happen in Mormonism; we accept all testimonies no
matter how phony. <g
But would a mainline church continue to keep you on the membership rolls if
you didn't begin to evince the behaviors that are expected to come with
conversion? If you profess your faith in Jesus on Sunday and then go whoring
around the rest of the week, does there come a point when you're told to
shape up or ship out?
Again, you don't have to buy it or believe in it... but from my point of
If only Mr. North had taken a couple of stylistic pointers from you!
And mormonism misses the point. It does not seek to so much to change the
heart, as it does to change the behavior.
Except that without a change of heart you really don't get change of
behavior, do you? Mormonism settles for change of appearance instead.
Legalism: Let's leave it for our President, who "did not have sex with that
woman, Monica Lewinski." Come to think of it, he would have sailed through
one of those interviews.
Great minds think alike. I tried to work Clinton into my original post but
ended up cutting that paragraph. His waffling on that relationship was
painful to watch because he did everything my Mormon instincts would have
had me doing in similar circumstances.
NOW you're getting why being a Mormon for longer than about 5 minutes is so
crazy making!!! They TEACH that they believe one thing but their practice is
We believe that family togetherness and eternal families are the pinnacle of
achievement. But on the happiest day of your life, your wedding to your
sweetheart, god forbid one of your family members is a) not a mormon, b) not
worthy, or c) not old enough, he/she is not allowed to view or be with you
when you tie the knot!
We believe that all folks have free agency and free will. But, if you choose
any behavior in opposition to the prescribed line of bullsh*t from the
prophets, the stake presidents, the bishops, your home teacher, we will shame
and shun you until you repent, recant, grovel for forgiveness and return to
We believe that the Mormon church embraces all truth everywhere. But don't
read anything written by anyone who isn't a Mormon.
We believe that the Holy Ghost will witness the truth of all things to you.
But if you have a witness that you personally should worship each Sunday in a
grove of trees, then that's not the Holy Ghost, that's Satan.
We believe each man is accountable for their own sins. But if your child
goes astray from the church it's on your head.
We believe that God will never let the prophet of the church lead Mormons
astray. But if he does he will bless the Mormons for following a fallen
I mean---do you get my drift? The whole doctrine of the church is riddled
with incongruity and contradiction!! Just filthy full of it. Everywhere! I
was in it for 40 years and tried to make sense of it and finally saw the
light that it wasn't me, it was THEM and I was okay. What a relief to find
out I was sane and THEy were crazy! Whew!