Monday, August 8, 2011

Way Way Back When

I grew up stuffed with all the same sort of programming my kids tell me they're hearing today: You're the most valiant generation, saved to come forth in the last days, you're greater and stronger than anybody that came before, yadda yadda.  I remember hearing this from the time I was a deacon, and my son is hearing it now that he's a deacon too.

Looking back, I realize that my thoughts about the church and my place in it were a lot more fragmented than I realized at the time.  One part of me believed it all, with complete trust, and honest lack of comprehension that anyone could see things any other way.  Another slowly, almost imperceptibly, began to wonder about some things that I couldn't quite explain and it seemed nobody else could either.  But like most faithful believing Mormon boys, I did as I was told and just "put the doubts on the shelf."

I remember when I got baptized at age eight.  Seems like my pattern of doing things a different way started even back then.  Most kids do as they're told, bend their knees and lie back into the water, right?  Not me.  I don't know where I got the idea, but when my dad pushed me under the water, I crossed my legs and literally sat down on the floor of the font.  It was enough to submerge completely.  Mission accomplished, but I did it my own way.

Side track.  I don't remember not knowing how to read.  So by the time I got to 1st Grade, I thought the simple little readers they gave us for textbooks were way boring and easy.  We had reading time each day, and the first day, we all sat round our round tables and took turns.  When it was my turn, I dove right in and read along at a regular clip.  Just normal reading.

And the teacher stopped me.  Not only did she stop me, but she scolded me!  "You shouldn't show off like that," she said, "you're making all the other kids feel bad.  Slow down."

And even in my little 6 year old mind, I remember being angry, and thinking "How dare you?  You're supposed to be here to help me learn, not hold me back!  I trusted you!  And now you're trying to shame me into doing and being less than I already am!  This is wrong!"

How ironic that years later, when all the doubts were too heavy for the shelf to withstand and it all came crashing down, I finally found the courage to say the same thing to and about the church I had been brought up to trust implicitly.  You were supposed to be there to help me learn, not hold me back.  I trusted you.  And yet you tried to shame me into doing and being less than I already was.  That's wrong.

I know lots of people who have left the Mormon church and who seem perpetually angry at it.  As in really outspoken, get visibly mad type angry.  I'm not like that.  But I am angry nonetheless.  Angry at the loss of time, the waste of effort and energy and devotion and money.  Angry because of all the things I could have done but passed up because I was taught I had a responsibility to spend that time "building the kingdom."  Angry at the opportunities I lost for schooling, learning, new experiences and adventures I denied myself because I thought I had a responsibility to stick to The Mormon Boy's Life Map that was relentlessly drummed into me since childhood, and which didn't seem to allow for any of that other stuff.  Mentally, it was like being inside a walled compound.  I could look over the wall at the wide world beyond, but I mustn't dare think about actually going out there.  It was evil.  It was Babylon.  It wasn't safe.

And now I know that was all a load of crap.  I shouldn't have been scared.  But I was taught to be.  Something I trusted held me back from becoming the really, really best I could be, shamed me in order to keep me in line with what it said I should be, but which wasn't right for me.  So while I'm not raving yelling angry, I am definitely low simmer angry and I'm gonna stay that way for a long time.  Because I devoted years to things I now am convinced were a complete waste of time and resources.  Fortunately, I still have a lot of years left to make up for all that.

Recently a friend gave me a very nice compliment.  He said my "inner kid" was very apparent because I always wanted to go places and do things and have new experiences, and he couldn't imagine me ever becoming a grumpy old man.  Well, buddy, now you know why.

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