Saturday, June 27, 2009

Oh, those Anti-Mormons

One of my BOM professors regularly referred to Anti-Mormons merely as "Antis."  Apparently, since he talked about them so much, it was natural to shorten the name.  I find it funny.  Many times when he would teach something, he would add that if anyone had trouble understanding or believing that that he would love to talk to them about it; it seemed like many students had brought up contradictory beliefs or something they had read thatcontested the fact.  That's cool.

When I have stumbled upon the blog of a former Mormon, the thing that strikes me the most is that (and forgive me if I'm over simplifying this, Antis) they got stuck thinking, "All Mormons are the ultra-conservative, judgmental type and that is exactly what the church is all about."  I'm struggling to overcome this feeling as well, but I just won't accept that it's true.  I did use to think this, but instead of being frustrated with those people and choosing to rebel, I tried to align myself with them even more, convinced that they were right.  No, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is right, not those lunatics who say that they preach it but are really just modern-day Pharisees.

Deep down, I was confused: I acted as conservatively as I should have, but I wasn't happy; wasn't I supposed to be happy?  You really can't be happy when you're so afraid of doing the wrong thing and getting negative consequences slapped in your face.  To me, there were no shades of gray; anything that wasn't clearly good must be bad–right?  Wrong.  Here's an example, since I'm speaking in pretty general terms:

Read your scriptures everyday, right?  Check, I did that.  But for how long?  Our motto in seminary was "10 min, you win", i.e. 10 minutes of reading scriptures a day.  That's not that much!  I heard other people say that they averaged about 30 minutes.  And you should also write your impressions and thoughts in a journal while reading the scriptures.  Since I write a lot and because whenever I read anything, my thoughts shoot off in a thousand different directions, it took me awhile to journal.  In fact, I had so much to say (because I had so many questions while reading, e.g. "Well, if that's true, does that mean. . . ."), I would have to just summarize all of the different topics I was thinking about so that writing wouldn't take more than 15 minutes.  I wanted to preserve my sanity, since I could have written for hours about all that I read and thought about.  So, for you math people out there, 30 minutes of reading + 15 minutes of journaling + 45 minutes/day.  The problem is, I am a procrastinator and a perfectionist.  I would put off this 45 minute chunk of my day because I wanted to be in the best mood possible to get as much spiritual insight as possible (because, of course, if I wasn't particularly inspired by reading the scriptures one day, it was my fault).  Also, a classmate of mine once said, "I've heard that if you read your scriptures before doing your homework, you'll do better on it." and the seminary teacher agreed that that's probably true.  Yikes!  So it's impossible to do the best on my homework unless I read the scriptures first??  OK, then it's an even bigger deal to get this scripture reading done before my homework which equaled even more pressure, which equaled even more procrastination.  Which also meant that my homework would get procrastinated, too.  And if I had to go anywhere on the weekends, I would need to get the scripture reading done before that, too, since my seminary teacher also believed that we would have a better day if we read the scriptures.  So, in my mind, that meant that if I didn't read the scriptures, I would not have as good of a day; if there was a sure-fire way to improve your day, you should do it, right??  So if I needed to go somewhere, I knew I couldn't leave for at least 45 minutes.  Sheesh.

Much later, after these shenanigans, I did realize that it wasn't the actual reading the scriptures that made the day better–it was having that spiritually-aware attitude.  If a person read the scriptures but wasn't really paying attention and was just going through the motions, it wouldn't benefit him.  I now don't believe in setting time increments during which you should read or journal.  So imagine my frustration when my first BOM professor (not the one who always mentioned Antis) made reading the scriptures for a minimum of 30 minutes and journaling for a minimum of 10 minutes a daily homework assignment.  AAaaaragagghh!  And this professor was strict about these increments: you had you read first, then journal.  A fellow student said that he journaled best when he wrote as he went along reading, not after he finished and asked if that was allowed, and this professor said no, he couldn't do that.  Really?  Really?  You're going to make this point that really makes no difference (Read then journal?  Journal when reading?) so letter-of-the-law that it will actually decrease the benefits of reading scriptures?  The guy said that it works best for him to do it his way!  Let him do it his way!  The professor's reasoning for doing this was that you could lose track of how much time you spent reading if you kept interrupting it to journal.  The professor did add that, of course, she had no way of knowing if we did it this way and then shrugged.  The professor would know if we journaled, though, because we had to turn the journals in, and s/he read them.  We could write a note at the top of the page that the entry was personal, and in that case s/he wouln't read them.  Luckily.  But even with the warning, your eyes could slip.  And the professor could have lost them.  There is a risk that what you write will be read and judged, which fosters an attitude of just journaling blandly and predictably just to be safe.

Back to the Antis.  Another thing they seem to get hung up on is BYU.  To them, it is a judgmental and sterile environment that fosters conformity.  Yeah, in some ways, it could.  There are self-righteous and judgmental students and professors that are so conservative that they're backwards.  But they should not be held up as the example of all Mormons!  What??  Professor Bott, ratemyprofessor's #1 ranked professor, said that evolution wasn't true?  So what!  That doesn't mean he's right.  BYU professors and administrators are not prophets.  I will agree that BYU has the possibility of being suffocating and awful, but it doesn't have to be.  I've met very strict people at BYU who couldn't possibly be as happy (and grateful) as they say they are, but I've met some of the most amazingly cool people there as well.  Maybe it takes a little more work to find those more progessive/liberal (whatever you want to call them) Mormon types, but they're there.