I've been thinking
of the Mormons I know and somehow I don't find them to be
happier than the non-Mormons I know. Not less happy necessarily,
but not happier. I don't see them living in greater abundance
or having bigger or better toys. I don't see them laughing
or having more fun than my non-Mormon friends and family.
I don't see them being more ethical, more compassionate,
more charitable or more industrious than the non-Mormons
around me. I don't see them as being less than, but I also
don't see them being more than.
So I'm thinking,
in typical Carrie Bradshaw fashion:
"If we're supposed
to know them by their fruits, then what do the fruits of
Mormonism tell us?" Is a peach by any other name still a
I see all of the same problems with Mormons that I see with
everyone else I know that isn't mormon. I have had a bishop
who was excommunicated for adultery and another whose fraudulent
business practices went unpunished. I have an active Mormon
brother with three marriages and a sister with two. I have
a very active Mormon mother with 80% hearing loss and a
father with cataracts. I have an LDS uncle who died of lung
cancer and two others who died after long battles with Alzheimers.
I have a Mormon
brother who is overweight and another with Asperger's syndrome
- his son has Down Syndrome. And my younger sister has just
been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.
I have an ultra-True
Believing Mormon foster sister, a mother of fourteen, who
has suffered migraines for years and strains to bring a
smile to her face no matter how happy the occasion. I know
an active Mormon man in Salt Lake who is a wealthy businessman,
married and the father of more than a dozen children who
is a closeted homosexual and lives out his desires clandestinely.
He's not the only one I've known personally in that situation.
I taught a young
missionary in the MTC who took his life shortly after arriving
in the mission field. I taught an older-than-usual sister
missionary in the MTC who was over six feet tall, not comely
in any way and had never had a boyfriend in her life. I
had another young missionary who for all of his hard work
and dedication, simply wasn't capable of learning even the
most rudimentary language skills and had to be reassigned
stateside. Another missionary had just watched his teenage
brother die of stomach cancer before entering the MTC and
spent much of his time there crying uncontrollably.
I played the
organ for the funeral of a young Mormon Tongan boy in Hollywood
who was shot to death by his friends while riding around
in a car late one night. I played the organ for another
funeral at the Hollywood Ward - this one for a young man
who had died of AIDS and whose Mormon family had so completely
disowned him that they wouldn't even show up for his funeral.
I have seen
the same illnesses befall Mormons that befall non-Mormons.
I have seen all of the same heartache and sadness in the
lives of Mormons that I've seen in the lives of non-Mormons.
And I've seen Mormons standing in line for welfare alongside
So what does
it all mean then? Is there any real advantage to being Mormon
if in virtually every way imaginable, night falls on all
of us with the same kind of darkness and morning awakens
us with the same ray of light? Are all Mormons capable of
running without being weary for their adherence to the word
of wisdom and are they all saved from the ravages of financial
ruin for their honest tithe?
the gospel of Mormonism exempt one from the shackles of
depression and mental illness?
If we are to
know a people by their fruits, then what are we to think
of a people whose lives in every way imaginable, mirror
those of every other person on earth? For a people who claim
to be peculiar, I see nothing at all peculiarly privelaged
in the way they live, laugh, love, breathe and die.
grandmother was one of the kindest, most talented, generous
and compassionate people I've ever known. She was born and
raised amongst Mormons in Southern Idaho and yet not a day
in her life did she desire to be a part of them. She was
a Methodist and a member of the Eastern Star until the day
she died alongside my grandfather in a car accident - broadsided
by a member of one of the Mormon bishoprics of a local ward
who ran a stop sign.
So yes, if it's
by your fruits that you wish to be known, then so be it.
I've tasted your apples and they taste just like everybody
else's apples. I've split in half your apricots and they
have the same hard stone in the middle of them that everybody
else's apricots do. Your trees go dormant in the winter,
leaf out in spring amidst delicate white and pink blossoms
and then bear fruit for the picking in fall before repeating
the cycle all over again.
Just like everyone
speak to me, not of a separateness from those you share
the planet with, but a sameness. The northwinds will find
you running along with all of the rest of us for shelter,
emerging later to revel in the same sun that shines on us
If it's by your
fruits you wish to be known, then so be it. But a peach
by any other name is still a peach, whether you drown it
in sugar and cream or eat it just as it is.