A Word to Bitter, Disaffected Members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (and to Anyone Else Having Difficulty Coming to Terms With Some Other Slight or Tragedy)
By Ken K. Gourdin
Many people cannot resist the urge, in commenting on-line on stories that appear in The Salt Lake Tribune at SLTrib.com, to bash the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints – no matter how tangentially the Church of Jesus Christ might figure into the story (if at all; often, commenters find ways to “shoehorn” the Church into the story). Because large numbers of Church members live in Utah, if there’s a problem in Utah, it must be the Church’s fault. In this case, however, the incident didn’t even occur in Utah, and the only “involvement” of the Church of Jesus Christ was that two men gained entry to a Las Vegas area home by posing as Mormon missionaries. No matter. More than a few commenters implied that the Church of Jesus Christ is at fault for what the men did anyway – or that, since the Church’s religious tenets and missionary program are plainly preposterous, they, too, amount to robbery and/or to fraud. The story is available here, and was last accessed December 24, 2014: http://www.sltrib.com/news/1988340-155/2-men-get-prison-in-mormon. I responded:
You know what? For everyone apt to comment here, you all are entitled to hold, and to express, whatever feelings you have about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. As someone who has been involved in the conversion process from various angles, while I think the notion that the process involves coercion is suspect, if that’s a belief you hold in good conscience and good faith, we’ll simply have to agree to disagree.
But, just for a moment, let’s suppose you’re right. Let’s suppose, for the sake of discussion, that the organization is a fraud and that its conversion methods do, indeed, involve coercion. What then? In various ways, in various other areas of my life (whether I believe coercion or fraud was involved or not) I might feel, essentially, like I’ve been sold a bill of goods. Would that belief, therefore, entitle me, thenceforth and forever, “to weep, and to wail, and to gnash my teeth” about how various people and organizations might’ve given me a raw deal? And, if so, what good will “weeping and wailing and gnashing my teeth” do me? Will it solve any of my “raw deal” problems? Will it enable me to reframe any of my supposed “raw deal” problems and to achieve a new sense of perspective by realizing that things might, in fact, not be as bad as I thought they were? Will it enable any healing I might require to take place? Will it enable me to find any kind of a “Plan B”? Will it otherwise enable me to move on?
I believe the answer to all of the questions I pose in the foregoing paragraph is “No”: simply “weeping and wailing and gnashing my teeth” won’t enable me to do any of that. And if it won’t enable me to do any of that, for goodness’ sake, what good is it? Whatever the organization, entity, or individual that has done us wrong – whether it be the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, or Amway/Quixstar/Whatever-it’s-called-these-days, or our local health club or Moose/Elks/Eagles Lodge, or whatever else – by all means, process the loss however you can do so effectively (and hopefully efficiently); but then, however difficult this step may be, find ways to move on. People who suffer such losses often talk about healing, and I’m all for healing: I think it’s a wonderful thing. I think of the Kubler-Ross model of stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and, finally, acceptance. Too many people, though, confuse “healing” with “picking at scabs,” and confuse “recovery” with “wallowing in non-recovery.”
It’s a human tendency to want to avoid anger or depression, so often, we get stuck in the first or the third stage, respectively, of that progression. But all of us have had to learn hard lessons. We’ve all said (about religion or about something else), “Boy, I was a fool to fall for that! I’ll never do that again!” But we can only get there once we’ve worked through the first four stages (including anger and depression). It seems as though a lot of us want to blame someone and something else for our problems. You know what? Maybe you did get a raw deal from the LDS Church, or from life. But you’re no different than anyone else. Often, life sucks, and there’s not much we can do about it. But even if we have almost no control over our circumstances, we do have control over our reaction to our circumstances. As long as we’re determined to blame someone else or something else for our problems, we give up our power to change. It seems as though there are an awful lot of people who are stuck at the second stage with respect to the LDS Church. I can’t tell anyone how to get unstuck. I would only advise you to do so, and would hope that somehow, you can.
In a similar vein, the foregoing post reminded me of something I posted at Mormon Dialogue and Discussion on May 2, 2011, available at this address and last accessed December 24, 2014: http://www.mormondialogue.org/topic/54358-can-the-church-admit-some-fault-in-order-to-heal-and-move-on/page-10. The title of the thread was, “Can The Church Admit Some Fault In Order To Heal And Move On?” The general theme was, “The-Church-of-Jesus-Christ-should-apologize-for-[fill-in-alleged-doctrinal-or-policy-or-leader-imperfection-here], and no member who has been hurt by one or more of those things can move on until it does” (my words in second set of quotation marks). A poster by the screen name of “scion” posted, “The power to be healed is derived from the choice to apologize.” I responded:
Oh, my goodness! Healing would hardly ever occur under those circumstances! Most rapists don’t apologize; at least some rape victims heal. Most murderers don’t apologize; at least some loved ones of those who’ve suffered this fate heal. Most abusers don’t apologize; at least some abuse victims heal. Et cetera. Why would one want to surrender one’s power to become whole again (at least, as whole as possible, given mortality’s constraints) to another person’s arbitrary decision to withhold an apology?