The last time I went to Sunday School I was home visiting my parents. At this point I hadn’t attended church regularly in years, but when I went home it wasn’t so bad seeing familiar faces and getting the chance to sing a few hymns. Most of the lyrics were rubbish but I like working through each harmony line in a four-part hymn.
The Sunday School lesson was on the bit in the Old Testament where the Hebrews go to war against pretty much anybody they come across on their way from Egypt to their final home in Palestine. The teacher, a former bishop who had given me positively oodles of terrible personal advice under the guise of revealing God’s will to me, waxed poetic about the virtues of slaughtering not only all the men, but every last woman, child, cow, chicken, pig, ox, and dormouse in a conquered city.
I had been out of Church long enough that I didn’t receive this with the same glassy-eyed acceptance that seemed to possess the rest of the class. I hadn’t heard the story in long enough, and my mind had been cleared enough, that when I heard this I instantly thought to myself, this story is unbelievably messed up.
I couldn’t come right out and say it, because that would have roused the entranced zombies from their scripture-induced coma and caused them to attack my brains. But I still wanted to make a go of it, so I raised my hand and adopted the well-practised tone of self-doubting humility that Mormon women unconsciously master by the age of twelve and said the following:
“I find this story difficult to deal with. The idea that a loving Heavenly Father would want people to murder civilian men, women, children, and even their pets and livestock just doesn’t seem to make much sense to me. How important is it that this story be literally true? Isn’t it possible that whatever scribe was writing out this story just got a bit overexcited with patriotism when retelling a war story? Couldn’t this be hyperbole, as when a football fan describes a match saying things like “We slaughtered them. We destroyed them. We pulled down the stadium and burned it to the ground.” I think a lot of people might agree that it causes concern when people say it’s all right to murder children because God told them to. We certainly don’t put up with people like that today.”
The Sunday School teacher had no answer, but a kindly, matronly woman I’d known since I was a small child spoke up after me, saying she had similar feelings about this tale. A few old people who had been dozing in the back row blinked and looked around, having been roused be the sudden sound of everyone inhaling sharply and holding their breath nervously.
The bishop was in the lesson that day, and he instantly took over the conversation. He shifted in his chair so that he could twist to look right at me. He jabbed his finger in my direction and said:
“You just don’t understand the will of the Lord. Those children would have grown up to be wicked, so it was better to kill them before that happened. We know that this is how it happened because Moses wrote it himself, and to say that this isn’t literally true is to question God’s judgement.”
It wasn’t his words, but rather his tone and the quickness of his assertion that drew the attention of the room with far greater alarm than anything I had said. Literally everyone blushed, gasped, or simply stared at the man with an expression that read, “Wow. You are a bit of a cunt.”
When I had heard through the grapevine that this man had been appointed bishop, I was surprised. He was a man who engaged in questionable business practices that were very likely illegal, and everybody knew it. He had wealth and flouted it whilst being notoriously stingy and harsh toward his children. He was cruel and humourless and could not take any kind of joke for any reason whatsoever. And this was the best the ward could come up with for their Dear Leader?
The kindly old lady looked at me and gave a knowing wink and nod. Even if she didn’t suspect that I was a closeted apostate, she did want me to know that I wasn’t crazy for being rational and it wasn’t wrong for me to speak up. She probably took it as a comfort that a young person seemed unafraid of allowing for personal interpretation.
I had no such comfort. On that day I realised that Mormonism is beyond redemption and not worth the effort of trying to reform. It’s a spiritual Ponzi scheme run by snake oil salesman, and every copy of the Book of Mormon ought to be stamped with a warning label reading “THE CONTENTS OF THIS BOOK ARE A LOAD OF RUBBISH.” I could show up once in a while and try to change things with honest questions, or I could even take the old woman’s route of quietly living as a member with tolerant ideas, hoping for better days. But nothing would change so long as the people with authority were the kind of men who thought genocide was perfectly fine so long as somebody’s invisible friend thought it was a swell idea.
I never went to Church again after that. I made sure to schedule visits to family and friends so that I’d never be around on a Sunday. I didn’t want to waste my time being alternately bored, offended, or angered by lies and lies about lies. I didn’t want to have to pretend I was a believer and then make awkward excuses for never bearing my testimony with all the requisite tears and clichés. I didn’t want to not have an answer when people asked me what calling I did not have in the home ward I did not attend. It just wasn’t worth it.
So bishop, should you ever stumble across this post, I hope by now you’ve thought about what you said, and how it made you sound like a manic Jihadi in front of people who were meant to trust you. I hope you’ve changed, but if you haven’t, It’s not too late to quit being a twat.
And that’s all the energy I care to expend on making LDS Inc. a better place.