Now for a big, warm, sloppy welcome to those of you who just came here from the link on today’s New York Times piece! To recap, five of us discuss why Americans are going to have a tough time swallowing Mitt Romney’s adherence to Mormonism. For my part, I enjoy sneaking into the NYT every few years or so, whether it’s about Harry Potter-induced headaches or American Coastopia secessionism.
I try my damndest to walk on eggshells whenever the subject of Mormons comes up. Yes, I’ve made fun of my cousins’ hair and my family’s picnic fixins, but I’m always mindful that they rescued my summers when I was a friendless 12-year-old spaz, and fed us when our family fell apart. To paraphrase Morrissey, I’m older now and a clever swine, but they were the only ones who ever stood by me.
a representative sample, reunion-style
But just because I loved my Auntie Donna, doesn’t mean I’d want her to be President of the United States. I’m sure there’s a vaguely liberal Mormon hiding out in Ogden or American Fork, but the vast majority have political views slightly to the right of Henry VIII.
I can take the o’erwhelming daddy-is-God patriarchy, mostly because my own Mormon forebears were fiercely strong pioneer women who pulled their families across the American West with the force of their jaws. Tangle with my Grandma Klea or my Aunt Marilyn at your peril.
The Church’s mind-befogging take on homosexuality is a different matter. It was one thing when they kept to themselves (and forced thousands of gay Mormon men to marry early, lie back and think of Salt Lake City), but when they meddled with Prop 8 in California, they crossed the line. Sure, the true shame lies in any voting Californian willing to take relationship advice from the octogenarians running the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, but it was a dealbreaker that forced a chasm between my agnostic nuclear family and the rest of our brood.
I know for a fact that certain relatives of mine actively campaigned for Prop 8 because their bishops told them to. Other relatives wondered why some of my brothers weren’t coming to the family reunion, thinking the Prop 8 thing was no big deal either way. They will probably never understand why that piece of legislation was so devastating – ironic, given that early Mormon history saw them harassed, imprisoned, shot, and run out of every town east of the Rockies.
But even the Church’s rampant homophobia comes from a relatively innocent place: if the essential core of your belief system revolves around a husband, wife and family meeting in the afterlife in a perfect divine form, then The Gays™ end up being totally confusing. It doesn’t “work”, as it were.
I fear a Mitt Romney presidency, but not for the same reasons as others. The NYTimes debate hints at the typical jitters: the otherness of LDS, the secret rituals, the rumored polygamy (and I’ll go ahead and add the funny undergarments, the “getting your own planet when you die” canard, and the Osmonds). But anyone looking to Mormonism for some kind of dangerous spiritual ecstasy will be sorely disappointed; in practice, it’s actually quite boring.
That’s what led my mom and I away from the Temple – we were proto-A.D.D. sufferers, fagged out of our skulls with boredom. The churches themselves have none of the iconographic wizardry of your average Catholic abbey, none of the sweeping grandeur. We’re not allowed to go inside the big temples in Westwood or Salt Lake, but I can bet the whole interior is done in early-60s split-level ranch wood paneling.
Sunday School room at the ward in LA – not exactly “The Wedding at Cana”
As for the “crazy beliefs” of the LDS church… the seeing-rocks, the magic hat and the posthumous baptism shenanigans are no different than any other Christian totem – they’re just younger.
No… what I fear most is the leader of the Church sending down a dictum to a Mormon president. Something crazy, destructive, messianic, and sickening. Mitt Romney says his presidential decisions won’t be influenced by the Church, which means he’s either lying, or he’s not Mormon. EVERY Mormon follows the edict of the Living Prophet, currently the 84-year-old Thomas S. Monson. The Prophet is the direct line to God himself.
If Monson has a “divine revelation” and tells Romney, that’s lights out. Refusing Monson is exactly the same thing as refusing the Heavenly Father. Past revelations have run the gamut from maybe we shouldn’t have so many wives (1890) to maybe we should let black people be priests (1978), but there is NO TELLING what kind of fever dream Thomas S. Monson might have after a late Mexican dinner.
I’m not saying these things out of bigotry, or to redeem my cold, black jack-Mormon anger. I campaigned for Obama, and he’s a big ol’ Christian. I will defend, as best I can, my Mormon relatives from any cruel invective – because, like them, I value family above all else. But please… keep those crazy tabernacle codgers away from the Bomb.