Here’s a juxtaposition for you:
Last October, I was able, with my mother, sisters, and a recently-returned missionary friend, to attend General Conference. General Conference is a world-wide conference held twice a year by the leaders of the LDS church, broadcasted via television and internet and satellite and print. There are four general sessions, three hours each, spread out over Saturday and Sunday, that every member in the world is expected to watch. These four general sessions are also led up to by a Priesthood session, an extra three hours specifically for the men, and a women’s conference.
General Conference is the thing, the golden thread that sews members all across the planet together.
As a child, I either never watched it, or complained and moaned throughout. My family always watched through the TV or via computer. Last October, however, my mom asked her bishop for tickets and thus I found myself sitting on the balcony of the ginormous Conference Center in the heart of Salt Lake City on a Sunday morning.
According to the entire Church, we were lucky. Sunday morning is when Thomas S. Monson himself, president and prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, the man all Mormons believe is the closest to God and the person who receives direct revelation from Him (basically, the Mormon equivalent of a Pope), gave his prepared speech.
And I could not tell you what it was about. Something about being a good person. Not only was I fighting off drowsiness from boredom the entire three hours, but when the Prophet himself was in the same room as me, breathing the same air, giving a lesson, telling me the keys of getting into Heaven, speaking God’s willed words–
I was completely still inside. I felt nothing. Not an absence of feeling, but literally nothing.
Last night I cried when a 70-year-old man read the line from his poem “We will cook with wine.” I went up to him afterwards because even though I’m just a fleshbag and he’s just a fleshbag, I had to touch him, and thank him for the words he shared, and tell him it was beautiful. If ever I believed in transcending and connecting to another human being via soul, it was last night.
That is my spirituality: Poetry. That is what makes me feel alive, what sends shivers down to my toes and gives my heart goosebumps. Poetry gives to me everything God used to back when I believed and that’s how I know that it’s right for me.
Spirituality is that deep and that personal. Millions of people across the world and in my life do not feel the same way I do about poetry, and that is COMPLETELY okay. What gives them shivers can be looking through a microscope, or climbing a mountain, or painting, or a god.
And that’s the key: God is just one outlit for spirituality. And just like poetry won’t fit everyone, neither will He.
The problem here is a direct lack of respect for the intimacy of spirituality from the LDS community. It is God’s way or the highway to Hell. Every day the Church is cranking out thousands of young people, giving them name tags and sending them out to knock on your door, insert themselves into your homes, and demand to know about your spiritual choices and tell you how to be spiritual the right way.
As a human being, I don’t understand how anyone can be okay with a violation of this degree. No one has the right to dictate what makes you feel alive.