Debunking platitude-rich articles from LDS blogs and even LDS.org itself is just too easy. And, of course, the first presidency decided to make their message for January 2016 a real doozy. I imagine some of you will hear this message this month/year, whether it’s during church meetings you still attend or through the missionary efforts of others trying to reconvert you. So here’s a post with some of my thoughts on its problems, that you’re free to send to anyone who might need to hear them.
The first issue I see with the article is one we at Zelph have mentioned before, and that’s the false idea that obedience to Mormonism = prosperity and happiness. The Book of Mormon is jam-packed with the message that those who are “righteous” are blessed both temporally and spiritually, while those who are unrighteous are cursed. The book even extends that to the point where sinners receive a curse of black skin, while those who become more righteous get more white—highlighting the ethnocentrism of the Mormon religion, which caters primarily to middle-class white folks. (Who I’m sure DO feel very blessed from living “the gospel”—their lives are such that they are regularly prospering!)
While anecdotal evidence is just that – anecdotal – and the Book of Mormon is provably false by looking at archeology, Egyptology, and history and not just my personal experiences, I will offer some personal experiences. Since leaving the church, I have:
Those are just a few of the positives. So, I think it’s fair to say that people can absolutely “distance themselves from God” and be happy/happier. Sorry to disappoint you, Henry B. I know Mormons believe that non-Mormons can be happy, even just as happy or happier than Mormons, but that principle doesn’t usually extend to evil apostates who resign their membership! Members of my family still refuse to believe that I am happy, despite my happiness being full, almost constant, and I would guess greater than theirs. They seem kind of unhappy, from what I’ve observed. Crying about me and my husband leaving the church doesn’t help, of course.
President Eyring goes on to say that,
“Someone may choose to pray less often to Heavenly Father or not to pay a full tithing or to stop feasting on the word of God or to ignore the poor and the needy. Any choice not to keep the Lord’s commandments can cause the Spirit to withdraw from our hearts. With that loss, happiness diminishes.”
It’s interesting that he mentions ignoring the poor and needy, because we all know that members who give 10% of their income to the administration-dense church and its opaque finances don’t have a lot of money left over for helping the homeless. I was one of those members who naively thought that my tithing dollars were being used to help people, not just fund malls and the college tuition of mission presidents’ kids. I so badly wish I could reclaim all the money I gave to the church and give it to a better cause.
President Eyring also mentions “feasting on the word of God”. I feasted on the word of God about as hard as anyone realistically could, and it resulted in me realizing the anachronisms in the Book of Mormon, the fraudulent nature of Joseph Smith (thanks, D&C, 132 in particular), and the painfully dangerous principles contains in these so-called works of “inspired scripture”. (Theocracy? No thanks.) So, I would have to agree with President Eyring—it’s good to study your scriptures, Mormons. But do so with the rose-tinted glasses off and your eyes open. And don’t let confirmation bias determine your life decisions.
Equally disturbing is the suggestions for teaching youth this first presidency message. As is typical, Laman and Lemuel are held up as examples of evil apostates who just can’t stop complaining—like a bad Mormon housewife. Nephi, who cut off a guy’s head because God told him to (every death cult ever?) is again heralded for his righteousness and obedience. Because apparently God wants us all to be sycophants who’ll act as his hitman when he needs us to.
So, the guys who demanded a bit more proof for the ridiculous journey their schizophrenic brother was making them take are belittled (I would have complained SO MUCH HARDER), while the murderer is praised. This is a teaching for YOUTH. Hopefully none of them grow up to think God told them to do something evil. (Elizabeth Smart’s kidnapper/the entire FLDS church, anyone?)
These teachings continue to drive home the message that “righteousness”=happiness. Again, let’s hope that this teaching doesn’t prove too damaging for teens who battle the common trial of depression at such sensitive times in their development. (“Why isn’t God helping me be happy?” “Why am I so depressed?”)
The teaching suggestions for children isn’t as toxic, thankfully, though it does teach them a bit of false information. “When Jesus visited the people in the Americas…” The suggestions to hug someone who’s sad, smile at someone who’s lonely, and serve someone who is sad, are all wonderful. Good job, LDS.org. The suggestions to read conference talks (kids? conference talks?) and/or sing primary songs is too brainwash-y for my liking, but it’s what’s expected. Unless it’s Popcorn Popping on the Apricot Tree. Great song, just terrible biology.
Ultimately, the most frustrating thing about this month’s first presidency message is the totally inaccurate idea that those who leave the church or become estranged from it cannot be as happy as those who are
brainwashed strong it it. That has absolutely not been my experience, nor the experience of my husband or handful of close friends who left the church for similar reasons we did. (History, the fact that it’s just not true, blah blah.) Feel free to leave a comment below with your experiences since leaving the church.
“We also know that maintaining happiness is not easy unless, as with the Nephites after the Savior’s visit, “the love of God” dwells in our hearts.” – President Eyring
Not easy indeed, if we are to look at the anti-depressant drug rates in heavily Mormon populations. Perhaps happiness isn’t easy for you to maintain, President Eyring, because you have been given a false idea about what it is and how it is achieved. I recommend getting a kitten, starting a new hobby, and taking a break from religious obsession.