Monday, October 3, 2011

What I Learned From General Conference

Looking back at General Conference weekend I realized a number of things.

1.  Reading even the summaries of General Conference talks gives me a headache and the feeling of being sucked back into a syrupy spiritual goo that is sweet and suffocating and prevents movement.  Yeah this sounds cutesy and alliterative and all, but seriously, I thought for a while about how to describe the feeling I got from reading that stuff, and really that’s how it makes me feel.  Like my brain, my spirit is being sucked back into this sticky morass just as I described.  Not a good sign.

2.  All Mormon General Authorities have a “look.”  There’s just something about them in their white shirts and suits that look like they’re bolted on and that barely perceptible know-it-all look in their eyes that says “I’ve made it to the red chair, godhood here I come.”  They all have it.  A very self-satisfied aura of pride, which is probably justified since they’ve survived all the political climbing and jockeying that precedes getting the jobs they have.  I’m sure lots of them are very well-meaning and talented and smart guys.  I even know a few of them personally.  I also know they’re just guys doing a job.

3.  The Mormon church is like Apple.  Obsessed with its brand equity.  Convinced it’s got the best product line-up in the world and if everybody could just see things its way, the whole world would convert and everybody would be wonderfully happy with nothing but Mormon-branded everything.  In fact, that’s its goal.  Just give up all your ability to see things and do things and think about things any other way but how the brand owner wants, and everything will be fine, you’ll be blissful and content inside the walled garden while others make all the decisions.  It’s like the Land of the Lotus Eaters in the Odyssey.

4.  Leaving the church is like putting away my iPhone and changing to Android.  It’s not soup to nuts anymore.  Sure, there’s a basic platform and lots of things that fit together.  But now I have to do some of my own customization and configuration.  There’s no single entity telling me how to do everything, how to live or think.  I have to figure some things out on my own.

5.  I like the Android approach a lot better.    It’s like I finally grew up.  There’s no line of patriarchs stretching back in time making me feel like generations of stern forebears are looking over my shoulder to make sure I toe the church line.  I really am in uncharted country, exploring for myself, making my own decisions, taking my own risks, learning for my own life.  I’m an adult now, I have to fend for myself.  I don’t have the benevolent spiritual taskmasters always telling me what to do anymore.

6.  It’s exhilarating in ways I never imagined or could even have comprehended.  It’s like I spent most of my life in a small stuffy insulated square room with a handful of books, breathing nothing but that stale air, and then suddenly someone opened a door and I stepped out and found myself on a mountaintop with the most incredible views for miles and miles in every direction, the most staggering beauty above, around and below me, and I took in a deep breath of clean crisp air for the first time.  You know how intoxicating that feels?  That’s what it’s like, only not in my lungs.  It’s in my heart.