And LDS friend of mine once posted on Facebook a quote to the effect of “When we die, if the atheists are right, religious people still die happy, because they won’t ever know. If we die and the religious people are right, they still die happy, but the atheists are in trouble.”
Ignoring the fact that I butchered the quote, the logic is pretty sound.
For the past 20 blog posts, I have become obstinately one-sided. I found myself so suddenly surrounded by hate and harassment at the onset that I threw myself as hard as possible in the opposite direction. I stopped offering respect because I was fighting so hard for my own. I mean all the things I have written about—with such a sensitive subject, I write from my heart and my life experiences—and I will continue to pursue and expunge subjects as they come up. I am of the opinion that the LDS church causes a lot of harm in the family unit and damage to the world at large.
However, the fact that I find myself looking at religion in terms of black-and-white disturbs me. In my gut there is so much gray area, and it’s a hard pill to swallow, realizing I’m not too different anymore from the uber-conservative Mormon. As I mentioned before, I’ve become a hypocrite who asks for respect without giving it.
This blog post isn’t coming out of the blue: It’s been stewing inside of me for months. There is good. That’s what I’m going to write about this time.
Most obviously, the Church gives its members a community. This is especially vital in Utah—if you aren’t part of the Mormon community, your other chances for community come in the form of “Heathen” Facebook groups based around partying and alcohol. Not only does the Church connect you to your neighbors (as wards, stakes, and districts are set up geographically), but it also gives members a grander sense of their place in their universe. It offers people the idea that there is an awesome plan for their lives, an individualized destiny, choices they can make that get them into the highest levels of the neatly-hierarchal afterlife. A Heavenly Father with an open heart and plan gives people hope and their lives purpose.
Service. One of the big reasons why the church is set up geographically is so that its members are better able to serve each other. I complain often of how this includes visiting with the intention of drawing non- or inactive-members “back into the fold,” but I couldn’t count on both my hands how many times the Relief Society (the women’s organization within the church) has brought my family full dinners when my mother was stuck in bed recovering from surgery, a miscarriage, or depression. One Christmas when finances were low, my family found gifts on the front porch every night for a week. When my mother finally left her abusive husband but found herself financially bereft, the bishop paid the rent on our little apartment. In preparation for youth summer camps, my hands helped put together a hundred emergency kits and baby blankets that went out across the world. Teenagers rake the leaves and weed the gardens and sing to the elderly weekly. Wards are set up not just as community hubs, but as support systems.
These are just a few examples of what are unmistakably acts of human love. And at the core of every Sunday message, this is what everyone is preaching—love. And I believe that the masses mean well, even when the message is executed with a million contradictions.
I’m not one of those agnostics who argues that religion has no place in the world at all. I believe that it absolutely does—within parameters that I feel the LDS church oversteps—because of the simple fact that it makes so many people happy.
That’s what I’ve been meaning to argue this whole time I’ve been bashing: Everyone’s right to the thing that makes them happy. I grew up around thousands of people who found great happiness in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I am still surrounded. My own mother is one such person. Sundays give her strength and hope and peace and happiness, and I would never wish my mother to feel any other way. Just as I have grown and questioned and struggled, so have many Mormons, and at the end of the day, many make their own choices to stay. No one has the right to take away another human’s happiness. More often than not, my blog is about the small-town Utah Mormons, and I understand that outside of the bubble things are better, and that there are also exceptions.
Let’s face it, though—my blog isn’t for those who are happy and strong in their church membership. That’s not why I write. I support happiness unequivocally, but my blog is a community and support for those who, like me, are transitioning happinesses. Just as I would never mean to offend my mother, I do not write to offend anyone who is happy in their faith. It’s like accidentally calling Dominoes when you want Pizza Hut—you came to the wrong place. If you want Dominoes, hang up and try again.