Last night at dinner we raised our glasses (beer in ours, milk in Paisley’s) and said “Cheers!” She loves this and we are a family of toasters so it wasn’t really out of the ordinary. As soon as she had taken a swing of her milk, she put her cup on the table, crossed her arms across her chest, bowed her head and with eyes closed said “Hum-a-na, hum-a-na, hum-a-na “. Me and my husband sat there stunned and trying not to laugh as she said what appeared to be a blessing.“What was that?” I said. “Oh, sometimes Grandpa does that before he eats.” she replied. Continue Reading
My little sister-in-law is 19 and beautiful. She is smart and funny, a talented writer and photographer and despite a lot of pressure, she has managed to avoid the Mormon mold. Until now.
After graduating, she had some big ideas. Some very atypical (for Mormons at least – the acceptable range is so much narrower) ideas like traveling. Or volunteering somewhere in South America. She wanted to study fashion and live in London. While we did our best to offer support, money and anything else she might need to make these things happen, these ideas were abandoned. She met a boy, all her friends went on missions, she started talking about BYU Hawaii. We were a bit disappointed but BYU Hawaii was at least somewhere and the chilled atmosphere would suit her personality perfectly. It was still outside the normal range of expectations and so we were pleased. Then it became BYU Provo.
The most recent news is that she will be going to BYU Idaho (formerly Ricks College). And living with her best friend from high school. And will not meet a single non-Mormon during her entire stay. And she’s taking general studies. Basically, she’s passing time until she meets a returned missionary and gets married. I was devastated when she told me. Not because there is anything wrong with BYU Idaho (my husband went there for the year before his mission) or living with your best friend (even though this particular friend has not been good to my little sis and has been pushed on her by my MIL for years) but because the whole concept is so small and my little sister could do so much better. Being young is about meeting people with new perspectives, having your ideas and your identity challenged, learning and falling and growing and sometimes, getting a fresh start. My SIL won’t get any of that and I am so sad for her. And so goddamned angry at her family and the little piss-ant town she lives in. Sigh.
I missed going to church today. As a Catholic, Easter was always a big deal. I loved going to church…especially all the masses leading up to Easter Sunday. The priest washing our feet, the nails being driven into the cross, the sadness of the passion story and the wonder of Jesus’ resurrection. I remember the songs that we sung, the excitement I felt when I bought my Easter dress, the smell of incense, the joy of Palm Sunday and how all the kids would sit through mass, braiding our palms. How the entire mass competed against the quiet rustle of palm branches.
Rituals are so powerful. That is why churches rely on them as much as they do. Whether it is a Catholic mass, where everyone sings psalms as a group and you already know what words will come next, to the Mormon temple ceremonies, all churches are rich with repetition, tradition and synchronicity. It makes you feel safe, secure and like you are part of something bigger than yourself. You not only identify with the religion but with the group of people who belong to it – even those who you have not met. It connects you to your heritage, your future and in a sense, humanity.
My husband and I both find ourselves missing these things at times. Usually, for me at least, it happens at Christmas and Easter. I have thought about what I can do about this for our family. Do we need to put aside an hour each week to slow down, think and reflect on our lives? Should we make it a point to go outside, explore nature and connect with the larger world in an attempt to recreate our own “church”? Do our children need that ritual to feel secure?
I haven’t got an answer I’m afraid. I do think that there is a difference between the vacuum left by leaving a church and never having had one to begin with. I don’t think you miss what you haven’t experienced. Having said that, a lack of community and connectedness are probably one of the atheist’s biggest challenges. Truth doesn’t always compare to cheesy songs sung with 100 other people.
I went to my first LDS funeral this week. My husband’s stepdad’s grandma passed away and the entire (and in LDS terms “entire” can result in staggering numbers) family came from all over to attend. While Grandma was a religious woman, she never pushed it down your throat. Unfortunately, the same thing cannot be said about one of her sons. Uncle W got up to give the “spiritual” talk, only to launch into a sermon on the mount, and what made it worse was that a lot of what he said was said on behalf of Grandma. Who, incidentally, would have been mortified by his words. He addressed the “many people in the audience, both family and friends, who have either lost or are struggling with their testimonies” and encouraged them to “out aside their issues” and return to the one true church. He proceeded to bear his own testimony and made everyone feel, well, offended and uncomfortable.
It made me so mad that he could be so dismissive of people’s “issues”. By issues did he mean the lack of geographical, DNA, or archeological evidence for the validity of the church, or the historical inconsistencies and contradictions? Maybe he was referring to the revisionist practices of the modern day church, or the obvious fraud and polygamous practices of early church leaders? Yeah – those are definitely “issues” that need to be put aside. Don’t think, just jump.