Do you remember a few years ago when Mormons were challenged to read the Book of Mormon before the years end? Well, I do and I remember seeing people everywhere with their books. As I saw it, they were all making a statement. It was like they wanted to read in public so that everyone around them could see what good little Mormons they were. It bothered me.
Another thing that always bothered me was people who read their scriptures in church. You'll see them in sacrament reading, when they should be listening. I'd bet 100 to 1 that everyone who reads in church doesn't read anywhere else. There is something about reading your scriptures in public that says, "Look at me. I'm a good little Mormon and I want you to know it!"
Why even bother going to church if you're not even going to listen to the speakers? I always felt like you should read your scriptures at home and come to church to elaborate on what you read. So anyone who reads in church is making a double statement: 1) they don't read at home, and 2) look at me... I'm reading my scriptures for everyone to see.
I've recently been informed that the LDS people have been extended the same challenge again. Read the Book of Mormon completely by the end of 2009. So I bet we'll see it all over again. Faithful Mormons everywhere reading their books in public. But it's not about actually reading the book (because if it was they would do it without being challenged). It's about having everyone seeing them read.
Jesus said you should pray in private. Those who pray in public are seeking the praise of the public. I always felt that scripture reading was no different. If you read in public, your reward is having everyone see you read. They are just seeking the pubic's approval which tells me that they are insecure and unsure.
But unlike what Jesus taught, Mormonism is all about doing the right thing when other people are looking. I once heard a joke that is funny but also sad: How do you keep Mormons from drinking your beer? Invite two of them.
You see Mormonism is all about appearances. That is why during 2009 we are going to see Mormons everywhere with their Book of Mormon. They want to be seen because it is the Mormon way. I have no doubt there are sincere Mormons who really do things for the "right" reasons, but for the most part, it is about appearance.
Go to any ward building and you will see people smiling and happy. But if they really are happy, why does Utah have one of the highest anti-depressant drug sales? They have to maintain an appearance. Why does Utah lead the nation in bankruptsies and foreclosures? Partly because of tithing but the other part is appearance. We have to have the appearance of being successful. So they buy houses and cars that they can't afford.
It's sad. Really. I've talked about it before. Being Mormon is like living with a mask on. The mask has a smile, but under the mask you don't even know who you are. All you know is that everyone must see you happy and see you being a faithful, obedient, righteous Mormon. That is why I claim that the very nature of Mormonism produces liars. They all lie. Some are subtle; some are very blatant.
My step brother smokes (among other things I am sure). I've picked him up before and the smell of smoke will knock you over! But if you ask him if he smokes he will lie straight to your face, NO! You see, he has been taught that smoking is wrong, so if everyone knows that he smokes, then everyone will know that he's not a good person. So in order to keep up the appearances, you just lie. If you're a Mormon, you have to lie. I did.
I wasn't Mr. Playboy, but I did have a girlfriend here and there that I would fool around with a little more than the church would like. When it came time for interviews with the bishop, I would always lie. It was just easier to lie than to have to confess everything, not be able to take the sacrament, and have everyone know that I did something bad. It was just easier to lie. (Maybe that's why I never saw dead people in the temple!)
The more subtle lie is simply going to church on Sunday with your happy, smiling face and being miserable the rest of the week. I did that too. I would consider myself a very honest person and even I was forced to live a lie as a Mormon. There have been many times where I've gone to eat out and was undercharged for my food. I always report it to the cashier or manager and pay them. They are very impressed with my honesty.
It's funny how honesty is a Mormon virtue BUT it really can't exist in that culture. Because if you just come out and say, "I'm miserable, damn it!" then you must be doing something wrong because only the gospel brings happiness. So if you're miserable, then the problem is you! So, you put on the happy mask, just like everyone else and play the little game together. You all pretend to be happy and secretly wonder why you're miserable and everyone else is so happy. But you're all in the same boat, living the same little lie, fooling everyone except yourself.
It's all about appearance. As long as you can appear to be happy and appear to be living the commandments, then you're okay. You will do well as a Mormon. But if you're one of those people who just can't stand to play the game, then you'd better be something else! If you hate putting on a show for everyone else to see, then don't be Mormon. I was playing that game and I could hardly stand it. I finally had to quit going to church. I was tired of living a lie.
Here's a great example. Provo, Utah is Mormon central, probably moreso than Salt Lake City. It is the home of BYU. Provo has one of the highest porno sales of any city in the country. And yet it is full of Mormon men who all deny that they look at porn. Can you see the problem here? Most of them are looking at porn and yet non of them can admit it because it is so socially unacceptable. So the easiest way out of that dilemma is to look at porn and lie about it.
I can safely talk about lying as a Mormon because I did it and I was about as good as they get. The one thing that kept me from confessing all my "sins" to the bishop was the fear of what everyone in the ward would think. And believe me, if I had that problem, everyone else must have had it worse because I wasn't even that naughty.
It's all about maintaining that appearance. In 2009 watch for those Book of Mormon readers. They will be there. They can't resist the opportunity to put on a display in public.