Gordon Monson: If you’re faking your Latter-day Saint faith … why?

“I can’t think of a more hollow existence than to go through such motions [of belief] out of obligation, or pressure, or appearances, or threats.”

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Columnist Gordon Monson

It has come to my attention from others, because I could never see my way clear to operating this way, that there are some active Latter-day Saints who are — what’s this? — faking it.

They go to church, they fulfill congregational callings, they pay tithing, they socialize with believers and participate with family members in every aspect of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, except for one.

They do not actually believe it to be the truth.

Call me naive, but this whole concept is tough to fit into my brain.

Why the heck would anyone pretend to believe in a religion that is as demanding, and often outright inconvenient, as the LDS Church is?

If I didn’t at least believe to a certain level, if I didn’t have faith, there’s no way I would do the works. No. Freaking. Way.

But I’ve spoken with enough people of late who say that’s exactly what they don’t do and what they do do.

They don’t believe. They do go through the motions. They do put on an act.

Amazing. Mind-blowing, even.

Why would anyone play that game?

This is where I have to step away from my own experience and see things from a different angle.

I was raised on the East Coast, by a mother who was a strong-willed woman, a person who could tell everybody in no uncertain terms her truth, as she saw it, and still crack up a room. She was — is, she’s now 96 years young — personable, funny, straightforward, kind, could swing a two-by-four with bad intentions onto a table, but always made all y’all (she was from the South) think every intention was good.

My father was smart, a highly educated scientist, a man who lived his professional life by doggedly pursuing empirical data, who also was a straight talker.

Both were believers, faithful people who allowed God to exist inside their lives, and allowed others to believe whatever they saw as proper and correct for themselves.

They built a home for a family in an environment that was surrounded by the blessings of having Catholics and Jews and Protestants and Muslims and Baptists and Methodists and Christians of all persuasions and atheists, all around us.

A theme in our house was … ask questions, research your course, believe what you believe, and always allow others the same privilege. My parents were Latter-day Saint believers, and that suited them, but they appreciated other points of view.

There are others around here who have had a different experience.

Maybe it’s a Utah thing, I dunno.

The pretenders do not feel free to believe how and what they want.

Family members pressure them to do things only one way, the Latter-day Saint way, and if they don’t, there will be, if not hell to pay, severe consequences to face. Some pretenders think their social and business opportunities will suffer if they aren’t part of the predominant culture.

I hate that. I don’t get it.

First, faith is a matter to be cultivated and incubated and cherished between an individual and God. Maybe you could throw a spouse into the equation, but only if that relationship is an honest one. It’s personal, and it should be powerful. It’s not cultural, at least not the way I see it. It should never be cultural.

But I’m told some folks make it that way because they think they must.

Mom and Dad are/were believers. The wife or husband is a believer. Uncle Fred is a believer. Aunt Sue is a believer. Grandma and grandpa are/were believers. Sisters and brothers are/were believers. The kids are believers. The boss is a believer. Work associates are believers. Potential customers are believers.

Come on, now. All of that is hard for this schmuck to process — that people believe, or pretend to believe, because that’s what others do. And they’re afraid to live a genuine life because of potential ramifications. Is there some twisted honor in … doing it for them?

It’s hard to fathom, and yet, that’s what I’m told. That it does happen, in too many cases.

I can’t think of a more hollow existence than to go through such motions out of obligation, or pressure, or appearances, or threats.

Believe what you believe. Do not believe what you do not believe.

Don’t fake it. (Sorry, I’m preaching here.)

At some point, everyone must face himself or herself and make a decision about matters of faith. Huck Finn said you can’t pray a lie. Can you live one? You can, I guess. Sooner or later, though, one way or the other, the truth floats to the surface, as it should.

“Be your authentic self” is the popular saying these days. If that makes room for belief in God or belief in any particular faith, good on you, even if it’s just a small slice. If it doesn’t, big or small, that’s your business.

But it’s yours, not Uncle Fred’s or Aunt Sue’s or Mom’s or Dad’s or Cousin LeGrand’s or the boss’s. It’s not the view of the guy who might buy a car from you or the woman who works down the hall in the corner office.

It’s between you and the Almighty, if you believe the Almighty exists. And if you don’t, it’s between you and, well, you.

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