Saturday, September 3, 2011

There and Here

Being a lifelong non-Utahn, somehow I acquired the idea in childhood that Utah, being the "center place of Zion," was particularly special, maybe even sacrosanct.  That's where the prophet lived so it must be the holiest place on earth, right?  When I got older, I wanted to visit Utah and experience such a spiritual and holy place for myself.  Yeah, that's really what I thought as a kid.

Then I grew up, and actually visited.  Then moved there for school even.  Saw the real thing for myself.

Now, before I go further, I must say that there are exceptions to every rule, and I have known many people in Utah who are as true and honest Christians as you will find anywhere.  I value their friendship and respect them greatly for their faith and their dedication to practicing it in the truest sense.

That said, add me to the countless number of people who've gone to "Zion", seen it for themselves, and come away dismayed and jaded almost beyond description that the place which claims to be the home of the prophet and apostles, where the spiritual influence of the church is greatest, should be so shot through with hypocrisy.

Now, if I were naturally nothing but a cynic, this wouldn't surprise me.  Part of me is a cynic, it's true.  But part of me stubbornly clings to some perhaps naive idealism and hope that when people claim to be Christian, they actually will try to be.  That when a church claims to be God's One And Only, it will actually act like it, consistently.  That the culture it creates will reflect that truth and Christian character.  And so when those things don't happen, and the gap between claim and reality is revealed to be so great, then I am all the more disappointed.

Some people might say You set yourself up for this, no earthly organization is perfect, the gospel is perfect but the church isn't, the people will always be fallible and imperfect, yadda yadda.  I know all that.

But other churches don't claim a monopoly on God's authorization.  They don't claim to have a living prophet.  They don't claim to be guided by direct revelation both macro and micro.  That's the thing.  The Mormon church teaches that every member has not only the right but the responsibility to seek personal revelation to instruct and inform their life.  And if they were doing it, and actually getting it, and truth being consistent with itself, then one would think all of them would gradually be moving in the direction of greater truth, light, knowledge, Christlike character, no?

And wouldn't that be especially true in the place with the most active Mormons?  Where the prophet and apostles live?  Shouldn't it, of all, places, at least have the capacity to be further along the road to City of Enoch status than others?

Sigh.  Not quite.  Instead, what I found was what I've subsequently learned many others found too.  And which I won't describe, but I'll let two others describe for me so you, gentle reader, will know I'm not just being a crank.  These comments are from an article on an unrelated subject that ran in the Salt Lake Tribune:

I'm a native Californian LDS living now here in Utah,and I don't "get" the "culture" at all, it's like it's two completely different religions. The real LDS Church, and what so many claim to be, here in Utah. Huge difference, and therein lies the shame.  Since I'm from California, I'm an "outsider", a pagan idolater that actually expects people to do what they say they are going to do, instead of their myriad pathetic excuses, rationalizations and justifications for being a hypocrite.
Treat people like you like to be treated, celebrate the "differences" between you, find something in common, instead of being lazy and refusing to acknowledge the good decent people that may not be active LDS, in our faith, believe in our faith or at odds with our faith. We can STILL find the good, at least that's what I believe and try to practice-admittedly some days I'm lousy at it. 
. . .
I also am a transplant from CA.  It's a night and day difference between the Mormons outside of Utah and Utah Mormons.  I never had a problem with Mormons growing up... my best friends were Mormon, and yet never pressured me to join.

Then I moved out here, and I have changed my view on the Mormons 180 degrees.  Out here, they are arrogant and hypocritical.  And, like another poster said below, they lie constantly to promote their faith.  My CA friends wouldn't try and recruit me, but now I face an endless stream of missionaries.

I'm glad to know I'm not just Utah-jaded, and that out of state Mormons see it too.

It's encouraging to know that not just non-Mormons but even other Mormons see this and react the same way I did.  So I feel vindicated, to a degree.
But it still bothers me.  If the Mormon church didn't make such lofty claims for itself and its people, this would be no big deal.  But it does make those claims.  So when it and its people fall short, the gap is that much greater, and so is my disappointment.  

Other organizations, even religious ones, can aspire to noble things.  And they can fall short.  And that doesn't bother me.  At least they try.  

But this one is in a class by itself.  It claims to be the one true authorized gospel of Jesus Christ restored to the earth with the only authorized priesthood, the only authentic Holy Ghost for inspiration, the only trustworthy conduit for the actual voice of God through a prophet, the "stone cut out of the mountain without hands" that will ultimately fill the whole earth.  Yet what did I see in the place with the greatest number of its adherents anywhere on the planet?  Enough pharisaism, double-dealing, duplicity, bad faith, bigotry, arrogance and complacent smugness to convince both me and (now ex) wife that we would never ever raise kids in Utah.  We wanted them to confront real life head-on, without the suffocating overlay of hypocritical pretense that "all is well."

I've become a pretty practical, results-oriented guy.  I judge things by their fruits.  And when an organization claiming to be God's sole authorized channel for truth, authority and salvific ordinances produces fruit like this in the place where logically its concentration of spiritual power should shine most brightly, then I am forced to question whether it really is any of the things it claims.  Perhaps it's just that the people really aren't practicing what they preach and if they did, the place would be what I first expected.  Perhaps I should forget about the group analysis and look only at individuals.

But groups are nothing more than large numbers of individuals, and one can discern trends about larger things from the behavior of groups.  It's a sad commentary on the group called Mormons that where their group is biggest, they have the reputation they do.  And in my perhaps still naive heart, that is not the kind of result that a truly divine organization would produce.

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