Sometimes I get the urge to belt out "WHY?!" in Nancy Kerrigan fashion when I think about my reasons for staying active in the Church. Spiritually speaking, it often feels like I keep on getting whacked in the knees with a metal bar.
I could sit here and write until my fingers fall off about all the conflicts and inconsistencies that would make it seemingly justifiable for me to go inactive -- and any one of them would probably seem sensible to 99% of those polled.
The issue that has probably been on most of our minds lately is, of course, polygamy. Specifically, the FLDS fiasco going on the U.S. right now. I've read different postings from different people, LDS and non-LDS, and I can sympathize with most of them. Here are a few of my personal thoughts on the issue.
I got up this morning and one of the first things I read in the news is that of 53 girls aged 14-17 on the FLDS ranch, 31 of them have children or are pregnant. I know that there are many factors that can be argued to make this understandable, perhaps even justifiable because of their unique faith and culture, but to be perfectly honest, I'm just not ready to accept that it's right -- in any context. I wonder if any man could relate because I honestly think you have to be female in order to truly fathom (and even then, you'd probably still come up short unless you've experienced it first-hand) what it's like to be 14-15 years old, have some guy in his 50's take you away from your family and into his bedroom, undress you, impregnate you, and then to have to go through the physical and emotional trials of pregnancy, childbirth, and motherhood. Whether these men are perverts or not is actually not even an issue. Girls at this age should not be having sex or babies, whether it's FLDS girls, the 8 year-old in Yemen who was recently granted a divorce after being forced to have sex with her husband, or 12 and 13 year-olds in Ethiopia having their bodies literally ripped apart from childbirth and having to live with the shame of a fistula, dripping feces and urine, for the rest of their lives. Yes, I know that 12 and 13 year-olds are willingly having sex every day but darn it, how does that make it right?
I've read plenty of arguments for leaving these people alone, that the government shouldn't be meddling, that separating the children from their mothers and putting them in foster care is cruel and traumatic for them, etc, etc. I can sympathize with these arguments, particularly the last one. And yet I have to ask what choice the government has? Even if the government is violating civil rights left and right, which maybe they are, is it not worth it in order to save even just one 14 year-old from being impregnated? Some say no, I grudgingly say yes. And perhaps the only "good" reason I can give for saying yes is that I remember what I was like at 14 or 17 and can only imagine what it would have been like for me to be "Sarah" or any one of those girls. (If you're having trouble relating, read the book by Khaled Hosseini that I mentioned in my previous posting.) In my opinion, the government is damned if it does, and damned if it doesn't. I'm sure there's a good chance it may all blow up in the government's face, perhaps they won't have a case, and later on there will be a review of everything that was done wrong. On the other hand, what are the chances that years down the road people won't look back and say that the government of the United States failed countless children who were victimized in the name of religion?
So what does this have to do with me and my going or not going to church? Well, actually it has EVERYTHING to do with it.
I have trouble being one of those Mormons that believes that the LDS Church has a monopoly on the right to practice polygamy. It baffles me that many members can look at the FLDS' practice of polygamy with the same disgust that I do, if not even more, and yet have no trouble justifying it in LDS history. I think that we would like to believe it was like "Big Love" or that it was a safe haven for all the poor young widows and spinsters. If it were really like that, then really, what's not to embrace? (It might not have been for me, but maybe under the right circumstances it would have. Who knows?) The part that I will forever struggle with is why the Lord would ever want a mature man to marry a young girl, as Joseph Smith did. I'm trying to understand why it could ever be right, under any circumstances. I'd like to believe Joseph was a gentleman and I know it was a different time and I know that the laws were probably different concerning minors, but is that all it takes to make something acceptable or not acceptable? I welcome any theories or observations you may have to share.
I have asked myself repeatedly how I can continue to call myself a follower of a religion that has a lot more in common with the FLDS than any of us want to admit. The only answer I can come up with is, like I said in my blog introduction, there's more to Mormonism than meets the eye.
And just for the record, I am still going faithfully to church every Sunday, even though I'm often visited by Tonya Harding while I'm there. I don't want to have to drop the first half of my name. :)