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Tuesday, May 01, 2007

More on the Mormons

I took notes this time. For what it's worth, my musings:

My favorite thing about Mormons has to be how organized they are. True, to a certain degree it is a little creepy, but if you actually have to accomplish something with these people (like run a cooperative, to-it-yourself preschool) they really do show up. Yellow t-shirts after Katrina, orderly Bishop's Storehouse -- but of course!

Mormonism is so intense. You are not allowed to be a passive member. This is a religion that demands ongoing service and testifying. This is even reflected in the language. Mormons describe practicing members as "active." As a Reformed Dutch pastor once put it to us, "Wow, Mormonism. That's religion with a capital R!"

I did not go on a mission. Lane did. He served in suburban Maryland, just outside DC (where he met Janet, by the way!). He always reminds me that it was excruciatingly difficult. I think it was this audacious work that made it possible to later become a gallery artist -- another kind of audacious work.

I did some research, and I am naive about Mo money, even Mo money from relatively liberal sources.

The segment on archeology and the search for proof of the BoM in America reminded me of a line from one of my favorite movies, Plan 10 from Outer Space: "Just because it didn't happen doesn't mean it isn't true!" That sentiment sustained me through the waning years of my church activity.

So great to see Gail Houston, who was a professor at BYU's English department when I was there. She hasn't aged a bit.

Fun to also to catch a split-second glimpse of a friend of ours in a protest scene. Lane called this person immediately, who answered with a mixture of boredom and embarrassment, "Yes, we saw it, we'll talk to you later" and hung up.

I loved hearing Margaret Toscano's story. Back when I was trying to find intellectual reconciliation with Mormonism I found her writings on women, the priesthood, and God the Mother immensely helpful and inspiring. I wish there were room in the Mormon church for people like her.

ERA -- I remember everyone being caught up in the backlash. I was taught that the ERA would force us into co-ed bathrooms. When I grew up and found out what the ERA was really about I was shocked and dismayed. ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Equal rights for women -- oooh, that's really controversial. What a tragedy that it was defeated by so many well-meaning people.

I know some viewers may be inspired by the Darymple family's story. I was horrified and angered. Out of respect for the family I won't say anything more -- but aaaaaaaaaaaaghhhhh!

I would like to bear my testimony that I don't believe the church is true and I'm relieved to be no longer participating. Fawn Brodie described leaving as taking off a heavy coat in the middle of summer. Exactly. However, I maintain a great affection for many of the Mormons I know and have a great respect for the faith they continually strive to maintain, for the saintly lives they try to live.

When I was a teenager I participated in a reenactment of the Mormon trek across the plains (just for three days, not the whole way). As I helped pull that cart through the Colorado dust, in a long calico dress and bonnet I sewed myself, I felt the spirits of the Mormon pioneers all around me. Growing up in the Mormon church, even if you're a convert, means adopting these ancestors as your own. It's an incredible legacy. In spite of everything I'm glad I was able to participate in the fantastical narrative of Mormonism.


Swizzies said...

Most excellent post, A. I hear you, I agree with you, I second all you say.

Lindsey said...

I loved the documentary. As someone who has been a member all my life and is only now questioning things (cough, cough) it was a very fair portrayal of what being a Mormon is like. There's a lot of things I resent, and a lot of things I'm proud of. And there's all those controversial topics for me to consider. There was so much stuff going on in that show to even begin to comment on.

I'm curious what your take is on that family. (You'll have to e-mail me.)

I, too, was fascinated by Margaret Toscano. I even went online and looked up a bunch of stuff on her. I guess being just a little bit younger when most of that stuff was going on--and living in UT--I didn't know much about it.

It was good. I think I might even buy it.

Margo, darling said...

I must be the only person in the world who didn't know this was on! I'm so glad I was flipping channels after the Gilmore Girls. I too found Margaret Toscano incredibly interesting, and way less crazy than I remembered her.

That family. You just don't understand Mormonism until you know about families like that.

I loved the sound bite from one of the Brethren about how gratifying Mormonism is if you have all the things you're supposed to have--which seems to be primarily enough money to have a sparkling clean house for 17 people--but pretty unforgiving otherwise. Made me feel better for leaving because it reminded me that I'm from way too trashy and dysfunctional a family to really be Mormon in the first place.

Last thing (sorry so long). Did they seem to be trying really hard to make the church look multicultural? Or is it? Would they EVER have allowed gospel music in your ward? We couldn't even have guitars. Maybe it's way cooler than we remembered.

Last, last thing: was this financed by Romney's campaign?

Margo, darling said...

clarification: the family I was freaked out by, the one that exemplifies pure, upper-middle class Mormon sanctimony was the one with the Charley-like dying daughter who sang Janice Kapp Perry-style "opera." The Big Love people need to model the oldest daughter's Mormon friend's family on them.

The Dalyrmples: for god's sake, YES to everything you said.

Hevansrich said...

nice post as always, AV. I, too, watched the show, but being the mormon wife and mother that I am I also filled out a Kindergarten application, planned a few nights menus along with a shopping list, put one son to bed at least three times, and spent some quality time with my husband during the course of watching the show, so, my focus was a bit off - but I do remember at one point they talked about the high use of anti-depressants among women in Utah - this to me is so interesting and not something we hear much about, i think it must be a bit of a taboo subject. I remember once several years ago attending my mother-in-law's ward in Laguna Beach, and the lesson, obstensibly on the W of Wisdom, was all about the use of OTC drugs and anti-depressants. so fascinating to me. (full disclosure, I, too tend to self-medicate with a nice mix of Cherry Coke and Coke Zero)

janeannechovy said...

I haven't watched it yet (I DVRed it and opted for Dancing with the Stars, American Idol and Veronica Mars instead), but I was pleased to see Margaret Toscano in one of the times I cruised by. I joked with a friend that I'm most interested to see how many of my apostate friends made the cut. ;)

Last night at Portland Mormon Choir rehearsal, the director started by asking how many had watched the first night, and how many had liked it. Only about a third of the hands stayed up after the first question, and a few people were quite upset (the woman next to me said she'd found some parts offensive). So, intended as some sort of spiritual balm, I suppose, he had us sing "O How Lovely Was the Morning" from the hymnbook to start rehearsal. I dutifully sang along, even though I'm pretty sure there won't be anything in the program that I find remotely offensive. Another one of those instances where my mileage DOES vary from the average Mormon. Thanks, PBS, for allowing the opportunity for me to feel like even more of a square peg.

Adriana Velez said...

Lindsey, we'll have to talk offline. I'll have you leaving the church in no time. JUST KIDDING!

Ha ha, Margaret Toscano less crazy. Yeah, there's a back story to everyone in that documentary. Like Terryl Givens -- apparently Helen Whitney quoted him a lot during her New York & Co. interview. But Lane and I were like, who is this guy -- is he trying to be the next Eugene England? Interesting to see the new guard of Mormon intellect'als.

Gospel in church meetings -- this is possible now depending on the individual congregation. Some leaders will say certain music isn't reverent enough but we sang some gospels in my ward in Brooklyn. Of course, we sang them white-people-style, so there was no clapping or swaying.

Yeah, they made the American church look WAY multicultural, though it's fair to say that it's growing quickly in many other countries. They also threw up a lot of highly exceptional Mormons, like that neurosurgeon who said she felt like a fully empowered member as a woman. Of course you do, you're a NEUROSERGEON.

Wasn't funded by Romney's campaign, but Mormons who have contributed to his campaign also contributed to this film. These things get fuzzy.

Heather, I was less busy than you were and yet I missed that line about women and antidepressants! Interesting point to bring up indeed.

JaneAnne, PBS did this documentary just for you. It's a coded message: find a secular choir!

janeannechovy said...

Ha! Actually my brother and I are trying to find out how to audition for the Portland Gospel Choir Christmas concert with the Oregon Symphony. All I've been able to find out so far is that auditions are in May, and an acquaintance in the Symphony told me he thinks it's made up of members of several (black) church choirs. I'm hoping there's some avenue for folks like me to join in, too.