One person who makes church tolerable for me is Easton Henrie. We have a lot in common. We’re both Mormon, we have the attention span of lightning and generally couldn’t care less about what’s happening in church.
That’s where the similarities end. Easton is 2, cute and fast. I’m 65, slow and look like I was found at a landfill. He’s getting smarter, while I’m becoming increasingly confused.
I’m sad to report that Easton’s parents, Jennifer and Rob, who, although staunch LDS, have failed God’s commandment to — how goes it? — “populate and overplenish the earth”?
Easton and his older brother, Jack, are all they have to show for it. Mormon couples are supposed to have at least a dozen children if they expect God to really bless them.
None of this is my business. I only bring it up for two reasons: First, because I want Easton’s initial mention in the press to be for something other than a bank robbery. Second, to address the problems of belonging to “a merit badge church.”
That’s right. Just because we’re leaving the Boy Scouts doesn’t mean we’re giving up our visible symbols of achievement.
With apologies to Jennifer and Rob, I’m old enough to remember when Mormon families were the size of military units. We were counseled against birth control and to have as many children as the Lord would send us — even if it meant mom later being sent to a psych ward.
My mom had her first four children in 3½ years. Even then she didn’t qualify for the Procreation Merit Badge until she had another baby six years later.
Mom didn’t get an actual badge. All she got was the five of us lined up on a pew where everyone could see that she had done her bit.
While the Procreation Merit Badge has diminished in popularity through the years, there still are Mormons rude enough to inquire as to when a couple are going to get serious about earning it.
“Goodness, where are all your children? You should have at least six by now. There are spirits in heaven just waiting, you know.”
Here are other merit badges we prominently display: Married in the Temple, Returned Missionary, The White Shirt, Well-Behaved Offspring, Former Bishop/High Councilman, General Authority Association, and Handcart Genealogy.
Those are not all of our visible awards, of course. But they do represent some of the more easily recognizable ones, especially for those who like to point them out to others.
“Heavenly Father sent us eight wonderful children. Our house looks like an ISIS stronghold, but we’re so blessed.”
“My great-great-uncle on my mother’s father’s side was a direct [via polygamy] descendant of Brigham Young’s secretary’s veterinarian.”
“I’m in the Relief Society presidency.”
“I’ve been a bishop and a stake patriarch.”
Admittedly, there was a time when that last one impressed me, back when I automatically interpreted such claims as signs of elevated worthiness.
I stopped thinking that way the first time I had to reply, “Well, you’re under arrest anyway.”
Conformity has its place, I suppose. Such visible signs of accomplishment mean we at least have to try and live up to them.
Still, it’s one thing to have a full merit badge belt and another to ask why others don’t.
“What do you mean you don’t want to earn a Returned Missionary Badge?” or “Check this out: I just got the All My Children Temple-Married Badge. Bet you wish you could get one.”
What we need now are different merit badges: LGBTQ and Active Badge, Never Married and Happy Badge, Interracial Marriage Badge, and, one I hope everyone will want, a Different Kind of Mormon Badge.