Raised by orthodox Mormon parents — and being of rather unsound mind — I naturally developed church coping skills at an early age.
It’s been years since I was compelled to sit still while some adult held forth on a subject that I didn’t understand, and rightly suspected that I wouldn’t have cared about if I did.
But I remember these skills, probably because variations of them still work for me today.
First back then, was plugging my ears. With the speaker thus muffled, I could then direct my thoughts to more fascinating topics such as Huckleberry Hound, root beer and setting fire to my school.
My next favorite coping mechanism was to write rude notes and pass them to other kids in an effort make them laugh, hopefully to the point they got in trouble for being irreverent.
“The bishop let a fart” was my masterpiece. When it reached Duncan, his attempt to suppress laughter forced snot onto his best shirt. He was grounded for a week.
Yeah, it was immature and disrespectful, but the speaker wouldn’t stop talking about the resurrection. I was 9. What the hell did I care about the resurrection? Death was a hundred years away, at least.
If all else failed, I would quietly torment those nearby until they screamed or started to cry. The Old Man then would snatch me off the pew, and I would end up in the trunk of the car.
Warning: I used this one only if things were truly dire, like if the sermon had dragged on for so long I started to perspire and felt like peeling off my own skin. Boredom, to me, is like sunlight to a vampire.
Being put in the trunk sounds harsh (and probably illegal even back then), but it worked. The Old Man knew that if he just told me to sit in the car, I’d wait until he went back inside. Then I’d get out and walk home.
Things haven’t changed much for me in the 50-plus years since then. I don’t get locked in the trunk anymore, but I’m better at filtering out the stuff I don’t want to listen to at church or even Mormon General Conference.
I’m also better at picking up on what I need to hear. One might argue that I need to hear all of church, especially General Conference. Those people are confusing their needs with mine.
For example, if a speaker tees off on homosexuality being akin to murdering puppies with a hammer, I haul out a book or plug in earbuds and listen to Joe Bonamassa turn the blues into the music of God.
I’m sick of hearing about a form of socially unconventional love somehow being the worst thing that can happen. There are bigger threats to society than a couple of people who just want to commit to and love each other.
If anyone needs to be publicly condemned and denied full fellowship in the faith, let’s focus on those who rob widows, beat their wives, commit business fraud, sexually abuse children, torture animals, and cheat on their spouses.
But if a speaker offers up something I need, I’ll stick around. I might even put down the book and unplug Joe. It happened just this past General Conference.
During the Saturday morning session, LDS apostle Jeffrey R. Holland spoke about the need to be perfect like Heavenly Father, or rather the impossibility of it ever happening during our lifetimes.
What I liked about Elder Holland’s talk is that it was something I found useful. I’m paraphrasing, of course, but he assured everyone that the gospel was never intended to be used as a whip, either on others or ourselves.
Love, not guilt, should be the primary motive in our efforts to “perfect” ourselves and help others do likewise. I could get behind that. It’s something I need to work on.
Religion — choose one — is used far too often as a weapon to batter us into submission rather than to lift us out of bondage.