Sometimes Mormons Drive Me Crazy
So, it is at least irritating when someone tells a young man that he ought not to take part in the blessing or the passing of the Sacrament because he isn't wearing a white shirt. That may wound him indelibly, and it is a cancer of the person who says such a thing. But it is equally dangerous to the young man's soul if he insists on not wearing one.
One of the annoyances of being a Mormon is our inability to improve teaching and preaching. That's largely a consequence of the fact that our leadership is lay. No one is trained for preaching, and the only ones trained for teaching are those with jobs as teachers. This is a difficulty with which the Church has been openly struggling for some time, but I don't foresee any resolution.
I don't care much for Mormon music. Some of it is good, but much of it is either saccharine—not good in the way that after a while popular music can turn out not to have been that good in the first place (think of the calliope sound of "Called to Serve")—or merely antique rather than classic.
I'm annoyed by the politicization of LDS Church members, both right and left. For a long time, the annoyance was mostly on the part of those on the left: they felt excluded by the politically conservative majority. But now, thanks to the "bloggernacle," exclusion has become an equal opportunity employer. Mormons of every political configuration can find like-minded folks on the internet and band together there. Talking only to ourselves, we can pretend that anyone who doesn't share our opinion must not be a good Mormon or a thoughtful, caring person.
I could add to this list. One of our favorite activities at family dinners is to rehearse our annoyances. I know that other Mormons have their own annoyances to add. But in the end the things that irritate me or sometimes even make me angry are irrelevant.
I'm not a Mormon because I like Mormon culture. I take part in Mormon culture, indeed I have come to inhabit it in a particular way, because I am a Mormon. I have faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ as it has been revealed through the prophet Joseph Smith and his successors.
I don't deny that Mormon culture is sometimes unnecessarily strange or off-putting to others. It is equally true that some of what I do and believe is annoying or off-putting to others, Mormon and non. And it isn't always easy for me to know which parts of what I do are merely my conventions and which parts are dictated by my faith.
In the same way, neither is it easy for those of us whose culture is Mormon to know what is merely conventional and what is not. The problem is knotty, requiring patience and love. Yet my trust in the Restoration commits me to continuing participation and engagement in my congregation and the larger community of the Church as a whole.
The consequence is that I love even what annoys me. Like families, church communities require that, even if what I love also needs to be changed. Mormons can drive me crazy. But I wouldn't give up their fellowship because it is through my very human relationships with other Mormons that I best have the relationship with God that my faith requires.
James Faulconer is a Richard L. Evans Professor of Religious Understanding at Brigham Young University, where he has taught philosophy since 1975.