A Dreary Organization

Hellmut described the church that way in his post with the video link (loved it, btw). It struck me that for those of us who are out, it’s an apt description. People have variously described Mormon life as robotic, a treadmill, and “Stepfordlike.”

But if you talk to Mormons, they will tell you how they have found true joy and happiness in their faith. I’ve heard members say they can’t relate at all to the church as exmormons describe it. The authoritarian nature, the mind-numbing rote meetings, the “dreariness”–that’s not the church they know and love.

How do you explain the difference? It occurs to me that we were taught to find joy in self-denial. Particularly, we were told that the greatest joys would come in serving others. We were never to take care for our own feelings and desires, for that would be selfish, which is the antithesis of the gospel. Here’s William Bradford (now Houston Temple president):

Selflessness is righteousness. It embraces the true spirit of companionship. It is the very essence of friendship. It is the portrayer of true love and oneness in humanity. Its reward is the freeing of the soul, a nearness to divinity, a worthiness for the companionship of the Spirit. Every requirement that God’s plan for our salvation places upon us is based on the giving of one’s self.The only way under the heavens whereby a person can be sanctified is in selfless service. Where the proper focus on gospel-centered, selfless service is not developed, selfishness takes over (“Selfless Service,” Ensign, Nov. 1987, 75).

So Mormonism in essence teaches that true happiness is found in the denial of the self. And so we did that. We became what we were supposed to become. We dressed like the others; we attended the meetings; and we served selflessly. And that for us was happiness. As Gordon Hinckley put it:

When they come into this Church they’re expected to conform. And they find happiness in that conformity.

Once out of the church, we realize what this really was: conformity and self-denial designed to further the goals of the organization. It never was about happiness or self-fulfillment. It was empty service, an empty life. But as church members, that’s what happiness was.

Deep down inside, though, I think our souls longed for something better. We knew we weren’t happy. Most church members despise the 3-hour block, and service is often given grudgingly. Why? Because members know that these things are not “happiness.” But we spent countless hours in numberless meetings telling each other how happy we were.

And we were happy, at least by the church’s definition of happiness.

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5 Responses

  1. I have been enjoying my moments outside of Sunday School and priesthood. I sit and read quietly in the foyer or outside under a tree. I wonder if someone designed Sunday services to be mind-numbingly boring so that we won’t think new and exciting ideas.

  2. Hellmut says:

    I find it amazing that LDS leaders are rolling out another PR campaign with TV and billboard ads but they fail to realize that most wards are in no position to meet the expectations that the commercials are creating.

    If the LDS Church had a problem recruiting people then the PR campaign might be the solution. However, we are baptizing plenty of people. Attracting converts is not the issue. The issue is that the LDS Church cannot hold on to its recruits.

    The LDS Church needs more promotion in the chapels, not on roadsides and television screens. Here is another secret, unless the central leadership empowers local units to find solutions, and that must include budget autonomy, all PR campaigns will be for naught.

  3. Guy Noir, Private Eye says:

    IT’s ‘too bad’ the central church isn’t in touch with what’s happening IRL, but that is the system they set up: Never LISTEN to subordinates, only INSTRUCT them. Feedback is non-existent in Morland

  4. Runtu,

    I enjoyed your writing here on happiness. It’s so funny for me to think back on my days as a Mormon, watching my siblings and parent who chose not to attend church, and watching for signs of unhappiness because they were choosing not to follow God’s Plan of Happiness.

    It was astounding to me to feel the surge of happiness as if a weight had been lifted once I quit attending church. I am amazed at how much in the church I felt compelled to BE happy or ACT happy when I felt the exact opposite.

  5. joom says:

    Runtu, I wish you well. I miss your personal blogs and insight! My e-mail is Daswiney@suddenlink.net

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