Thursday, April 30, 2015

Mormons Have Good Intentions, Right?

I don't talk about it much but I was a Mormon when I was a child or I think more accurately stated my mother was/is Mormon and she comes from a large Mormon family that is religious.  Many of her brothers have been in Mormon Church leadership at the individual Church level and what they would call a Stake level in which the Stake President is over several Churches in a geographic area.  Her brothers and sisters when they retire will often go serve Church missions and spend their golden years serving their Church.  My uncles and aunts on my mothers side are for the most part Mormons who are in good standing, well very good standing with the Mormon Church.

I have skirted the issue in past posts but I will just come out and say it, my mother is mentally ill and has been for as long as I can remember.  Like many illnesses she has good days and bad days or maybe better said has good years and bad years.  A lot people do not view mental illness like other illnesses.  I wish that was not the case but I do live in the real world most of the time so I know that is not how most people view it.  I think everyone would look for help if there had been more of an effort to cut through the stigma and treat it like Lupus or Rheumatoid Arthritis, a disease that has no cure but can be helped by treatment most of the time. 

The last few posts have been short on points and long on exposition and this post is headed that way...

My parents divorced when I was five or six years old and I lived with my mother after the divorce and my dad was not around until I was in my teen years and on to adulthood.  I know you can't tell from text on screen but that was not a bitter angry statement just one of facts.  Don't get me wrong I was bitter and angry but like everything else it has passed away as time has marched on.  Growing up my mother was only religious when she was around other Mormons.  Appearance was more important that substance, I did not realize this until years later.

I have never seen my mother pray, not in my entire life.  When I was young we went to Church pretty regularly but I do not remember much from those days so I guess more accurately I think I went to church regularly when I was young.  My earliest memory of church is I punched another kid and had to go sit next to my mother at a piano or organ she was playing for primary.  I have a couple of other memories about going to the Mormon Church but they probably deserve their own blog post but needless to say I did not attend Church with any regularity and I did not form much of an opinion about the Mormon Church or about religion in general.

If I have not mentioned it before I did grow up and still live in Salt Lake City, Utah

I was ostracized growing up not being Mormon in a Mormon community and most people are quick to blame the Mormon religion and I would argue it is a cultural phenomenon in Utah.  I have said this before that anytime you have one group dominate an area you are going to see that.  I remember being in Missouri at a vacation home on the lake of the Ozarks and Sunday morning I flipped on the TV and on the three broadcast stations we could get each one of them had a Baptist preacher.  If you were a non-Baptist Yankee there was some ostracization.  I will say I found the Missouri ostracization to be more polite than the Utah ostracization, that whole southern hospitality thing is no joke.

The point I am trying to make is that when everyone that surrounds you feels the same way as you when you do run into someone different you are less likely to be tolerant and I would submit that is human nature.  I am not saying it is a good when this happens, it sucked as a kid not being allowed over to some of my friends' houses because I was not Mormon but as an adult I understand it much more as a cultural thing than a religious thing.  If you lived in Ethiopia where there are not a lot of Mormons I doubt the Mormons there are not letting non-Mormon kids over to their house to play because then there kids would have no one to play with.

The previous paragraph might have been just a long of saying confirmation bias or some buzzword thing like that.

Salt Lake City where I live has become more and more religiously diverse as time has marched on and as of the last time I check it is only 50% Mormon which of course is still a majority over any one religion but the point is every other person is not a Mormon.  When I was growing up and you were a Mormon and only wanted to speak to Mormons throughout your day, I mean down to your 7-Eleven clerk, you could do that easily, now every other person is not a Mormon and you could not spend your day exclusively with Mormons, well maybe you could but it would not be easy.  There are still some towns that are still overwhelming Mormon but I think the whole state of Utah is only 60% Mormon now.

Here is a link to the religious demographics of Utah on Wikipedia and it looks on 2010 census Utah was 61.4% Mormon so my guess was pretty close.

I do ramble, concise is not my middle name.  Anyway all of that is to say that my childhood has left me intolerant towards people that are intolerant and don't get me wrong if you move into a new place in Salt Lake City and go out on your front porch to have a beer one neighbor may see the beer and never speak to you again but the other will invite you over for dinner, this really happened to me and they were both Mormon so things change slowly but they do change.  I wish that story was a long time ago but it was a little while ago so hey.

Wait for it, it is all coming together now, well may not right now but soonish.  I think after all that it would be fair to say I was raised by a crazy mom without religion.  I was baptized a Mormon but it was not part of my life and I was never Mormon.  I did not know much about Mormon theology until much later in life and unlike many people that had left Mormonism I did not feel the need to explain what was wrong with the Mormon Church and their doctrine to everyone I met.  I refer to this as the Ex-Mormon syndrome.  When you have Ex-Mormon syndrome your life is consumed with the Mormon Church, hating it but still consumed with it.

As an adult I never considered myself an ex-Mormon, I did not like being ostracized as a child but I thought that was cultural and not directly related to Joseph Smith finding gold plates in Pennsylvania.  It is Pennsylvania right?  That shows you how little I know about the Mormon Church or maybe more accurately how little I remember, I think I knew at one point where the plates were found, I am thinking upon further reflection New York, I am remembering Palmyra, I am not sure in what context but I know Palmyra is in New York.

Anywho the rambling is coming to a point that is probably gonna fit in one paragraph, is that good writing or bad writing?

The impetus of this post was twofold.  A couple of weeks before my wife and I came into full communion with the Catholic Church my wife started receiving texts from some Mormon missionaries.  They were not directed specifically at her, she had been added to a mass missionary text list.  After a few days of receiving text messages it was pretty clear it was not some random miss type but that she was officially on the list.  My wife asked nicely (because she is nice) to be removed from the list that was end of that or so we thought.

After my wife and I came into full communion with the Roman Catholic Church (baptized, confirmed and first communion) we get a letter from the local Mormon stake addressed to the Southwells.  After these events I have a question occurred to me, if you are concerned about my religious choices or in other words if I am going to Hell (I don't think Mormons have a Hell but it is an overarching metaphor) why wouldn't you talk to me?

If you are scared of me, which I am not going to say is unreasonable.  If you knew me in my youth or ever saw me angry even ten years ago I could be a scary dude, not like the dude abides but like dude that is scary kind of dude, but if you are scared of me write me a letter, send me an email, message me on Facebook, or maybe a Google Plus message (I am not really sure how that last one works, does it come through as Gmail or what?).  I cannot legally drive because of the brain damage from the old sarcoidosis so what do you think is going to happen?  I am going to call one of my forty something year old friends and say hey would you like to be complicit in a felony assault because I need to go beat a relative for indicating they are concerned with my religious choices?

I am not saying I would not think about beating you but my friends are normal people and normal people are not going to be an accessory to an assault.  That was a lot of the word 'an' in close proximity to each other.  What I am confused about is not really a Mormon or a Catholic thing it is a person thing, why did you care enough to notify the Mormon Church but not talk to me?  Unless of course this has some significance in the Mormon Church that I am not aware of and that I should know if I had been more involved?  It does not make any sense to me.

In the group of people that were baptized as adults with me at the Easter Vigil there were several Ex-Mormons.  As Easter quickly approached there was more and more discussion of sending the Mormon Church their letters indicating they wished to have their names removed from the Mormon Church records, which struck me as odd but it probably has religious significance because I was thinking my letter would have said take me off the membership rolls I am no longer a member.

When it came to it I did not care enough to write a letter to the Mormon Church.  I am not sure why I should care whether my name is represented by a series of ones and zeros in a Mormon computer somewhere (I am hoping they have gone paperless for the planet)?  I do know that it was important to some of my classmates, very important like they went to a Mormon Church disciplinary meeting (just a note a Church disciplinary meeting sounds scary regardless of the Church) and that just seemed like a lot of effort and the Catholic Church I was joining was happy with the affirmations I made during the rites that entered me into full communion with the Catholic Church so why should I care?

I started thinking about this and I started putting two and two together, they were concerned about being on the mailing list!  No wait that does not seem like them at all and for the record these now former Mormons are good decent rational folk.  There is something missing here and rather than have some insight I am hoping for some insight from you my readers and I know you come here for insight and if I make a habit of not having insight you will not return but this is just a one off, probably.

Anywho it leaves me wondering what goes on in the Mormon Church that when people leave they have a visceral need to leave the Mormon Church officially and why does the Mormon Church remove you from their records?  If you are baptized a Catholic they will keep that record for as long as humanly possible, my dad saw some Catholic baptismal records in England that were still stored at the local Church from six hundred plus years ago and I assuming that not everyone that becomes Catholic stays Catholic and it is it just me or is it weird to remove someone from the records?  That last thing about knowing about removing people from records is not really important I just find it weird.

So right...now it comes to ending this post and I am at a loss.  When I do not have some insight to bring to a subject apparently my rambling feels no need to stop but I will do my best to reign it in.  In the end I don't want a theological answer or discussion about the differences between Mormons and Catholics because there is a history of the religions not getting along in the US going back quite a ways.  More of what I am looking for is some cultural insight as to why my relatives are concerned with my soul but not enough to talk to me and why are people who leave the Mormon Church still so invested in something they have left?  I used to be a born again Christian and when I left under not the best of terms I did not have the same level of animus.