Friday, May 8, 2015

Help! I Need a Translator.

The Mormon message is so confusing that sometimes even Exmormons like me need a translator.

For example, I recently saw this photo circulating around Facebook. Some shared it in earnest and others with an accompanying eye-roll - the latter noting that the quote is incomplete - and therefore a bit misleading - and also that Hinckley isn't even its source.
The actual author of the quote is the late-nineteenth/early-twentieth century Unitarian minister, Jenkin Lloyd Jones. Here it is in full, the omitted lines in red:

“Anyone who imagines that bliss is normal is going to waste a lot of time running around shouting that he’s been robbed. The fact is that most putts don’t drop, most beef is tough, most children grow up to just be people, most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration, most jobs are more often dull than otherwise. Life is like an old time rail journey…delays…sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling burst of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.
Leave it to the Mormons delete the exciting part! But I digress. In fairness to Hinckley, he did cite Jones as the author and used the quote in its entirety in church talks. But because the late prophet, seer, and revelator bandied those words around a number of times, his devoted followers have begun attributing them to him, even abridging them. And why not? The Lord told his prophet to use the quote.

The Facebook meme appears to have originated on a page entitled "The Family: A Proclamation to the World." This is apt, since in 1995 the church released "The Family: A Proclamation to the World," a declaration that marriage is between one man and one woman, and that all human beings should marry, have children, and pursue traditional gender roles. Then two years later, sensing that they might feel marginalized, Hinckley gave a 1997 talk to single adults, employing the above passage from Jones to illustrate that for most, life within Mormonism is pretty much all tough beef and missed putts.

"All of you presumably are without marriage partners. Many of you wish you were married. You think this would be the answer to all your problems. While a happy marriage should be the goal of every normal Latter-day Saint, let me assure you that for many who are married, life is miserable and filled with fears and anxiety." 
He went on to describe the burdensome responsibility he shouldered when determining whether to issue a temple divorce:
"The circumstances behind the divorce and behind the request for cancellation of a temple sealing contain a litany of selfishness, of greed, of behavior at times even sadistic in its nature, of abuse and heartache and tragedy."
So here's where I need a translator. Was Hinckley saying that he only issued temple divorces to couples who were "selfish, greedy, sadistic, and abusive?" (Meaning nice couples who were just plain old miserable together should stay joined for the eternities?) OR was he saying that people who seek temple divorces are selfish, greedy, sadistic, etc., and to an audience packed with individuals who have requested them?

Does it matter? Probably not. But I am mildly curious.

I'm not the only one confused by the Mormon message. Consider poor Brian Dawson who was fired from his Sunday School position for using information from the church's official website in his lesson! Foolishly thinking he could teach a lesson on race relations to his ward youth, Dawson consulted a 2013 church approved article entitled "Race and the Priesthood." Obviously he needed a translator. 
"Anything regarding black history before 1978 is irrelevant," Dawson recalls his bishop saying, "and a moot point."
Okay, so does that mean that anything regarding Mormon marriage practice before the release of the Family Proclamation in 1995 is irrelevant? What exactly is relevant?

Does it matter? Probably not. But I am mildly curious. Also this could become problematic on Pioneer Day...

Fortunately I'll be celebrating at the Hotel Utah Saloon - with people who speak my language.

Oh! And Happy Mother's Day, especially to my gentle readers/mothers who will be enjoying the day without that horrific Mother's Day Sacrament Meeting.


  1. This is mind-boggling on so may levels that I scarcely know where to even begin a response. First and foremost, whoever thought it was OK to take the quote from a Unitarian Universalist leader, with or without the omission of the main point, and credit it to Gordon Hinckley (I refuse to humor any of the LDS leaders by including middle names or initials) was incredibly out of line. Even if one ascribes to the theory that plagiarism is the sincerest for of flattery, it's still ethically wrong as well as illegal.

    So we should not seek happiness? Obviously all of our lives will not be pure joy, but should we not seek it wherever we can find it? Would it be preferable to resign ourselves to lives of misery and to sit around like martyrs complaining about the sorry states of our lives, and to spend our time striving to "out-suffer each other"? It would seem that it's what Gordo, through the stolen words of someone else, would ask of us..

    I'm miserable at the moment. i have a bug or some sort that has caused me to barf and pass out. My dad appeared with iV equipment to hydrate me, along with anti-nausea meds. I anxiously look forward to the time in the near future when I am sure to feel better instead of congratulating myself on my state of misery.

    As far as most children growing up to be mere peole, who would have it any other way? we'd like for them to be essentially good people, as opposed to individuals who concoct stories about angels and deities appearing with gold plates, who go on to bilk people out of their heard-earned cahs and, in some cases, their lives. Most parents I know would be more than happy for their children to grow up to be morally upstanding individuals with work ethics who genuinely care about others and try to do something to eave the world a better place than it was when they found it. I hope to have a child or two someday, and that will be my goal as a parent.

    I need to stop, as I have so many issues with this plagiarized quote that I could write all day if I didn't stop myself, and I feel the need to go hurl, so I'll need to cut my diatribe short. Furthermore, i realize that I'm preaching to the choir here.

    1. All good points, Alexis. And I just read your post about being "kicked out" of class. Glad your dad is there.

      I believe the UU leader Jones was trying addressing people who felt guilty for not feeling happy all the time and he was giving them permission to complain. "Be ye therefore imperfect" if you will.

      Not exactly Hinckley's message.

      Feel better!

  2. The Mormon Church should just change their motto to, "Life is not too much fun. And then you die. Suck it up." Brought to you by your tithing.

    1. No kidding. That talk Monson gave about the young single men having "too much fun" really brings the message home.

  3. Here's another spin on the quote: Life sucks and then you die. But of course, that's for Mormons. I'm an ExMormon and am incredibly happy most of the time...

    1. Bliss is pretty normal at our house too. And to think we don't even pay tithing.

  4. The longer I'm out the more mind numbing church quotes/scriptures are. When I read through them I tend to let my mind wander. =) I need a translator too!

    1. It's nice to be just mildly curious these days.

  5. Looking back on my Mormon days I realize, that a lot of Mormons really do try to out do each other in the misery game. Some seem to enjoy the trials and persecution it somehow makes them feel correct and righteous. And then they want everyone to see their perfectly happy (yet miserable) lives. There is a lot of doublespeak in the church.

    1. Yes, JJ, you're absolutely right about that. In fact I recently reconnected with an old LDS friend. It was very nice to see her but I couldn't help but notice that her entire conversation was negative. Having been happily out of the church for so long now, I'd forgotten about that dynamic.