For most of my adult life, my attitude toward religion has been that God will take advantage of you if you let him.
Sounds shocking, I know.
But think about it. The entire point of having free will is the need for occasionally being able to tell your creator “no.” Read the Old Testament if you don’t believe me.
Growing up Mormon, I was press-ganged to church at least three times a week — twice on Sunday and once on Tuesday after school. It seemed excessive then and, looking back, rather criminal now. But I was a kid. I didn’t have a choice.
Sundays were, of course, the worst. My father, who would have to attend church three times on that day, was already gone to priesthood meeting. So it was up to Mom to cram her five kids into church clothes and make us presentable enough for morning Sunday school.
The Old Man then would come home, load us into the car, and drive back to church, where the torment began. Thanks to post-traumatic Sunday disorder, my memory is hazy in parts.
Sunday school started around 9:30 a.m., right about the time three bowls of Sugar Smacks kicked in.
Sometimes I made it all the way through the meeting without incident. Sometimes I didn’t. My skin would start to come off, revealing the red and scaly evidence of my true nature.
Had I been my Sunday school teacher during those moments, I would have killed me and hidden my body in the baptismal font. And there isn’t a creator in the universe who would have convicted me.
After Sunday school, we went home and proved that Sunday was not actually a day of rest. We ate lunch, watched TV, played in the yard or goofed off in our rooms. It was the only part of the day that was remotely tolerable.
Then came the horror. Late in the afternoon, we were forced by considerably less-patient parents back into our church duds for sacrament meeting, the worst of them all.
Here’s where history proves yet again that putting all religious power into the hands of men is a bad idea.
No woman — especially a mother — would have found it spiritually edifying to get children ready for church twice in the same day. In the case of my church, only men with extra wives would have thought that up.
Back to church, where we finished off the day listening to a procession of lowing oxen in neckties.
Hams planted firmly on a pew, I remember vowing one day to worship my true master — the one who gladly allowed young boys X-ray glasses, high explosives and a Bengal tiger that could take down Rin Tin Tin.
Going home from sacrament meeting was not exactly a moment of joyous release. The day was nearly done. Back home, it was dinnertime, then PJ time and, finally, bedtime, where I wrestled with the understanding that tomorrow was school.
After school on Tuesday, it was time for more “school” in the form of LDS Primary. It was just another version of Sunday school — as if we somehow needed to be further reminded that Heavenly Father was still in charge.
I had to go or the teacher would ask my parents later if I’d been sick. That didn’t keep me from trying, though. I once made the news by having the fire department called to get me out of a culvert.
Today, everything is crammed into a three-hour block of meetings on Sundays. It’s more convenient but can be equally tedious. Three hours is a long time for people with increasingly short attention spans.
There is hope. Last week, the Mormon church announced that it will be chopping one session out of its semiannual General Conferences, going from six sessions to five. Oh, and that women will have more visibility in conference.
Now, if we can just get the three-hour Sunday block on the block.