The Times They Are A-Changin'
I’ll be honest, sometimes I come home from church half-way resolved to never go back. (I say half-way because who am I kidding, I will stubbornly continue to go week after week, dragging my family behind me.)
A couple of Sundays ago was one of those Sundays. I woke up late, only to find that mr. mraynes had gone to do a last minute rehearsal with the special musical number. That left me with two babies to get ready for church by myself. When we got to church (late), we had to sit on the metal folding chairs in the cultural hall which, was bad news because Baby Monster thinks that the sole purpose of a metal folding chair is to bang on it as loud as he possibly can. When told to stop his admittedly impressive percussive performance, Baby Monster threw a series of fits, necessitating three time-outs. As I was dealing with Monster Madness, mr. mraynes desperately passed off Baby Valkyrie to some random man on his way to play the piano for the aforementioned musical number. After the music, mr. mraynes and I switched babies and I headed off to the Mother’s Lounge to feed the famished Valkyrie. After feeding Baby Valkyrie for five minutes, she decided that she really wasn’t hungry after all and spit up all over her pretty red dress. I made it back to our folding chairs in time to take Baby Monster to nursery which, thankfully, he was happy to go to.
As I sank into a seat next to mr. mraynes in Sunday School and breathed a sigh of relief, the Stake President got up and announced that our lesson would be “how to teach our children to appreciate traditional marriage.”
My reaction can be summed up like this:
YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME
Most of you can probably guess what was said so I’m not going to rehash it here. Suffice it to say, as I was sitting there shaking my head in amazement that those words could be spoken in public almost a decade into the 21st century, I had an epiphany.
They are scared!
This is something I had never considered before. I had always been caught up in their claim to authority and the execution of that power. It had never crossed my mind that the leaders of our church have a vested interest in maintaining their power and there is a very real fear that they are loosing grip on their way of life.
I’m sure I am not the only one who has noticed a stronger focus on traditional lifestyles recently. Many Mormons, whether liberal or conservative, have questioned why things like “Mother’s Who Know” or our involvement in Prop 8/Prop 102 was necessary. What have we gained from them? Many of us have seen these forays into social morality hypocritical at worst, useless at best. I think that even the General Authorities would admit that these have been Pyrrhic victories. In the end, the sacrifices of time, money, reputation will be useless; women will continue to leave the domestic sphere and gays will eventually get the right to marry. The slow march of progress is unstoppable.
So the question remains, why? And the answer is…because they are scared.
The neo-traditional mindset of the correlated church is slowly dying. With every passing of a member of the Greatest Generation, the strangle-hold of “Father Knows Best” patriarchy loosens. And so it should surprise no one that we are seeing one last push for patriarchy.
The General Authorities are right, we are on the cusp of great social changes and those changes do have implications for the morality of our people. I can understand why our leaders fear these changes; it is always disconcerting to see an old way of life disappear. But if we are to have faith in God then we have to believe that God will provide a way for us to be moral when the social landscape around us changes.
And there are plenty of examples where God has done this. Somehow we have managed to stay strong in our faith without destroying every man, woman and child who disagrees with us. As far as I know, we don’t make animal sacrifices outside our temples. The fact that Joseph Smith re-imagined the God of the Nicene Creed to that of an anthropomorphic being hasn’t deterred any Mormon I know. The priesthood didn’t cease to exist in 1978 when the ban on black members was lifted.
My point in citing these examples is that it is hubris to believe that God is fully represented by our present morality. Truth is always larger than our partial vision of the present. We don’t kill people who disagree with us because we now believe that murder and genocide are wrong and that human life is sacred. We don’t withhold the gifts of God from black members of the church because we now believe that God is no respecter of persons. God “changed” because we changed. We are now in a time of transition and our view of God’s plan will change again. The time is coming when that change, too, will have to be embraced.
“Come gather round people wherever you roam and admit that the waters around you have grown and accept it that soon you’ll be drenched to the bone. If your time to you is worth savin, then you better start swimmin or you’ll sink like a stone …For the times they are a-changin.”