The Passing Parade: Cheap Shots from a Drive By Mind

"...difficile est saturam non scribere. Nam quis iniquae tam patiens urbis, tam ferreus, ut teneat se..." " is hard not to write Satire. For who is so tolerant of the unjust City, so steeled, that he can restrain himself... Juvenal, The Satires (1.30-32)

Saturday, January 21, 2006

THE LDS VERSUS THE CLAN BASHMACHKIN: Before I start, a full disclosure, as they say: this screed began life as a comment I made over at Solarvoid, a fine blog and one I commend to your attention. Rusticus, the owner and sole proprietor, does not allow pinging, so instead of doing a trackback and saving myself the time and energy of explaining my self there, I am wasting your time by explicating on the subject here, which is all for the best, I guess, since I wasn’t doing anything today anyway, except maybe trying to get this damn pine tar off of my hands. In the high winds of a few days ago, an old pine fell across my mother’s back yard and now she wanted the tree gone. So, my brothers and me, we spent the morning cutting the thing up and hauling it away, and consequently we all smell like advertisements for Lysol now. My fingers are sticking to the keyboard, too.

In any case, the first thing I should say here is that I have nothing against Mormons as people, even though I could never be a Mormon myself; that, I fear, is simply impossible, for reasons I will get to in just a minute. Mormons are some of the nicest people in this mycological breeding ground; they come in with their nice suits and their short haircuts, looking all the world like a convention of Young Republicans out to convince the world of the gospel of Adam Smith, Ronald Reagan, and Arthur Laffer, and sit down at our computers and email the folks back in Utah that all is going well for them here in the heathen confines of our happy little burg and that they expect a great harvest of souls here such as the world has never seen before, all of which will happen just as soon as they manage to wean most of the population away from their crack pipes. They are a nice bunch of kids, all in all, what with their white shirts and ties and their name tags announcing to the world that this is Sister June or Elder John of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, although if I were in charge of Mormon missionary activities in this neck of the woods I’d tell Elder John to cover the word elder with a piece of tape or a post—it note or maybe some black magic marker; Elder John doesn’t look old enough to buy a decaf Pepsi, much less a beer. I’ve got socks without holes in them that are older than this kid is, so that whole elder thing causes no end of cognitive dissonance here amongst the Gentiles.

No, my trouble with the Mormons is purely theological, especially in their theology of the family. Mormon theology in this area is a truly wondrous thing, a system of belief as detailed and refined as the Marian doctrines of the Roman Catholic Church (more full disclosure: this is the church to which I very nominally belong), a theology that contributes greatly to the moral development of the fine young men and women who come in here every day. Contrary to the hedonistic Zeitgeist of our age, these young men and women expect to marry, expect to raise children and set those children on the straight and narrow path that leads to heaven, and in the fullness of their age, pass away with their families about them, content in the knowledge that a Mormon family never really dies, that a man and a woman can seal their marriage in eternity, that a righteous life means that one may return to the bosom of one’s family forever. What in heaven and earth, you might ask, could be better than that?

Nothing at all, of course, although I suppose I am like many Americans in that I want to go to heaven, I just don’t want to die to get there, and if I do have to die to get there I would just as soon not have to see any of my relatives once I arrive, assuming, of course, I arrive at all. Even assuming that a good-sized chunk of my relatives don’t make the cut, an assumption that eliminates about 85% of the more annoying ones right off the bat, I am still left with having to spend eternity with some 15% of my nearest and dearest family members, which is, to put the matter frankly, 15% too many. Given that I already regard having to spend an afternoon with these people as the nearest thing to eternity available on our temporal plane, how much more painful will that sinking feeling in my stomach be when the eternity I have to spend with these people really is an eternity?

“There are many mansions in my Father’s house,” Jesus tells Thomas in the Gospel according to John, and I am willing to bet dollars to doughnuts that all of my relatives will come over to my mansion to use the rec room. This is an excuse, as you might well imagine, and before long they will be asking me for my lawn mower/snowblower/power saw/ golf clubs/laundry baskets, etc. that they’re sure the Almighty has blessed them with, but cannot find at the moment, so can they borrow mine and they’ll bring it back tomorrow, tomorrow being a relative term in a place of perfect timelessness. Assuming I die in the 2030’s or 2040’s, they will be asking me for this stuff around May of 2753, and I will get it back, assuming I get them back at all, at about the time the Sun turns into a white dwarf some ten billion years from now. I am also assuming that the Mormon paradise I will have to share with these dolts will be one in which I have to make embarrassed excuses to St. Michael and his host of heavenly repo men at the front door of my mansion while the cousins sneak out the back door with that new plasma TV they haven’t started making payments on yet. Frankly, I am not looking forward to this at all.

To make matters worse, the Mormon theology of the family includes what librarians call retrospective conversion. For librarians, even Mormon librarians, retrospective conversion is the first step in going digital; it means entering your library’s holdings into the computer, a process that took us about a year and a half here. A theological version of this is now available to every Mormon or potential convert; not only can everyone in your family convert to the Latter Day Saints, so can all of your ancestors as well. The church maintains the largest genealogical library in the world in Utah to help people conduct their research and locate their ancestors so that they too can enter Paradise as Mormons. This, as you might imagine, raises possibilities I would just as soon not think about. If the current crop of relatives is barely tolerable, what must the earlier versions be like? I fully expect to have generation after generation of Irish peasants and Liverpool dock rats to show up at my doorstep expecting a cup of tea and a buttered scone, at the very least, and maybe a quid or two to tide them over until they sell the crop, or until payday, as the case may be; at the very least, I expect that they will drink everything alcoholic in the house, including my aftershave.

And once they are all done eating me out of house and home, we can all get down to the deep theological question of whether taking the soup after we’re dead is as bad as doing it while we are still living. They will have strong opinions on the subject; the relatives have strong opinions about everything, whether they know what the hell they are talking about or not. Preferably they would know very little about the subject of the argument; as that grand Irishman, Richard Brinsley Sheridan once famously put it, the quarrel is a very pretty quarrel as it stands; we should only spoil it by trying to explain it. And then my brother would start fighting with his wife, and then another brother would get a call from his ex-wife, and the argument we were having up to this point disappears for the time being while we all rehash the arguments, for the umpteenth time, we made against his marrying that neurotic ditz in the first place, and Grandma pours salt all over her food and nods to everyone, smiling and happy as a clam because she’s as deaf as a post even with her hearing aids in place and she doesn’t have to hear any of this any more.

This is heaven, or so I am told, if you are a Latter Day Saint, and people wonder why Islam gains converts by leaps and bounds. In the Islamic paradise, not only don’t I have to put up with my relatives and their collection of tics, quirks, and eccentricities, I’d get to be Hugh Hefner forever and ever, and without the 55 gallon drums of Viagra brought in to my bedroom everyday. Unless, that is, the theory that the 72 virgins is a mistranslation and what the ummah actually get are 72 white raisins, which brings up the question, does the Almighty provide the milk and bran flakes, or should we bring them with us?

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